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[Short Reviews]


Through a pastiche of interviews, film clips, and (clumsy) docudrama, Escape to Life offers the compelling story of Nobel Prize–winning novelist Thomas Mann’s dazzling, symbiotically tied oldest son and daughter, Klaus and Erika, who claimed to be twins even though they were separated in age by a year. They grew to young adulthood in the last years of the Weimar Republic, where their artsy homosexuality was in tune with the times, then found themselves on the outs with the coming of the Nazis. Leaving Germany, Erika directed and acted in an anti-Fascist cabaret that toured through Europe while Klaus, who was addicted to drugs and often suicidal, wrote poems and novels, the culmination of which was Mephisto, his classic attack on artists who made a careerist Devil’s pact with the Nazis. For a time, a target for both of them was their world-famous father, who though in exile refrained from publicly attacking the Nazis — until his books joined the piles being publicly burned!

The directors of Escape to Life, Andrea Weiss and Wieland Speck, are well-respected lesbian- and gay-culture historians and filmmakers. Unfortunately, the homosexuality of their subjects is still foggy and mostly abstract at the picture’s end. An obvious question never addressed: what did their Death in Venice dad think of Klaus and Erika’s daring sexuality?


Issue Date: November 15 - 22, 2001

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