Try to negotiate with your conscience

IBasically, it’s all about this one sentence, this one scene: “Whoever makes music for the common people makes common music.” Munich composer Sepp Trautwin, who fled to Paris, roared in the ear of his colleague Leonhard Riemann, who remained in Nazi Germany. He blames his conscience and shows his opportunism. But instead of resisting, justifying himself, or looking for excuses, he answered calmly, “Do you think it’s easy for me?”

Feuchtwanger’s novel Exil, written shortly before the outbreak of World War II, deals with the conflict between those who left and those who stayed. Those who adapt to the new ideological guidelines in Paris in 1935 and those who do not lose faith in non-partisan justice. There is the aforementioned composer from Munich, a stubborn person from Bavaria who, after the kidnapping of a journalist friend, turned from a non-political musician to an anti-fascist journalist. And there is the cultured Paris correspondent for a newspaper from the Reich, a former world republican who, with the new rulers of Berlin, turned into a cunning defender of racial laws. Eric Wisner describes Feuchtwanger as a noble writer in a relationship with a half-Jewish woman, whose behavior clearly bears the hallmarks of the brilliant ideological warrior Friedrich Seeborg.

Not just political rumours

Two men in one city, on both sides to fight. Despite all the charts, Feuchtwanger doesn’t paint it black and white. Both present their beliefs in order to shine. One wants to impress the great Nazis, and the other wants to win over the secret public of the exiles. And please his wife. That’s what Seb wants above all: that Anna like him again.

Feuchtwanger’s “Exil” is not just a political gossip, it’s also a tragic love story. About a man and woman who lose sight of each other in the face of crime, who keep their consciences clear but exploit their love in the process. So much so that in the end Anna’s despondency took hold and she ended her life. Oliver Kraushaar and Pauline Knof play this sad pair as the entire production adapts its material: with complete sincerity and emotional precision. Kraushaar gives the impulsive boy to Bayern who puts his art above everything until politics make his way, with plenty of surprising energy and impressive expression. On the other hand, Knof plays with sexy restraint from the start which indicates great inner pain. External events are only reflected in the outlines of her beautiful face, which always looks a little injured. Even shortly before her suicide, when she dreams of stroking her son’s head again, she remains calm. Knauf, who comes from a family of actors and is the granddaughter of Ingie Keeler and daughter of actress Barbara Schnitzler, celebrates his first glamorous performance at this evening’s Berliner Gala.


“Exile” written by Lion Feuchtwanger and directed by Luk Perceval
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Photo: Jörg Brugmann

Son Hans, whose character Jonathan Kempf works well for a dogma addict, admires Stalin and supports violent revolution. Feuchtwanger put words in his mouth shortly before compromising himself – on his trip to the Soviet Union at the end of 1936, he was greeted by Stalin and thanked him as a “great organizer” who had the right to show you the trials. It is good, Feuchtwanger asserted at the time, with the development of the tongue that looks bad today, “to see such an act after all the rudeness of the West, to which one can honestly say yes, yes, yes.” With his book Moscow 1937, appearing immediately before Exil, and in which he stated that “history cannot be written with gloves,” the successful Munich author somehow committed the slip that he later accused of his Wiesener: allying himself with the politically powerful as a beauty and overlooking the extent full of their violence. In this sense, the “exile” should be read not only as an account of the adaptation of German cultural workers to the doctrine of National Socialism, but also as an attempt to negotiate the question of one’s conscience.

Luk Perceval, a Belgian director known for his penchant for the dark and the heavy, shows an evening that completely trusts the accuracy of its actors. At the rear of the empty stage, the Eiffel Tower was made of wooden chairs wedged into one another, which, however, do not crumble delightfully at some point, as one would expect, but are set apart after the intermission. This is emblematic of this evening’s gesture, for the relaxed director who wants to tell the story calmly and not artificially thrill it. The sixteen-piece movement chorus brings dynamics to a room punctuated by spells of mist, dangerously striking the clock, and slow dances signaling the transition to madness. In between, there are always very comical looks: Peter Moltzen as the sleazy local Nazi “Spitzy,” and Martin Rench as the cheerful Jewish dentist Dr. cheerfulness.

Konstanz Becker is also a part of Wiesner’s lovable, Jewish Lea, but — the hallmark of confident acting stars — is very reserved. Thick narrative stands above everything here, rather than labeling and conveying meaning to today, history comes alive here. At the end of these three hours of quiet entertainment stage, the composer sits on the edge of the stage and describes his change of mind. Now that times are getting so wicked, he’s giving up his hard and free art model. In order to counter the vulgarity, he, too, now wants to compose music that everyone can understand.

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