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Escape To Life

      Through a pastiche of interviews, film clips, and (clumsy) docudrama, Escape to Life offers the compelling story of Nobel prizewinner Thomas (The Magic Mountain) Mann's dazzling, symbiotically tied oldest son and daughter, Klaus and Erika, who claimed to be twins though a year difference in age. 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, which toured through Europe. Klaus, addicted to drugs and often suicidial, wrote poems and novels, culminating in 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 publically attacking the Nazis. Not until his books joined the piles being publically burned! The filmmakers 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?

(November, 2001)

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