The film FAREWELL is based on the story ABSCHIED VON DEN ELTERN (LEAVETAKING) written by playwright and author Peter Weiss in 1960. In this autobiographical work, Weiss tells of his childhood and adolescence in 1920s and ’30s Germany, followed by the journey across half of Europe by his half-Jewish family in their efforts to escape persecution by the Nazis.
It is an odyssey that also represents the young first-person narrator’s existential struggle as an artist, as he strives to build an independent life for himself as a painter and author.
Starting from Weiss’s story, filmmaker Astrid Johanna Ofner sets off to cinematographically researching the central strands of his autobiographical text. In the free, sensuous interplay between fiction and document and between realistic description and stylized invention, Farewell seeks to reignite yesterday by means of today while bringing the book’s text into the present and the world’s material to justice— in order to create something all its own, something lively, something new.
Novelist, playwright, artist and filmmaker Peter Weiss stands as one of the German language’s most important artistic figures of the 20th century. In his 1960 autobiographical, coming-of-age novel Abscheid vor der Eltern, Weiss describes his early peripatetic years and his initial forays into artistic creation, framed as a struggle to escape both historical events and the reins of family. Astrid Johanna Ofner’s first feature is a literary adaptation unlike any other: the entirety of the film’s text comes from Weiss’ novel and is often spoken as voiceover, but sometimes read on camera in Straubian inspired stagings by an actor depicting Weiss (Sven Dolinski).
Although this could come across as distancing, in every frame of the film one feels the personal hand of its creator, foremost through impressionistic Super 8 photography, yet also in the way Ofner films Weiss’ underappreciated paintings and his personal documents. The novel is set during the rise of Nazi Germany and WWII, which Weiss had to flee because his father was Jewish, but Ofner makes no attempts to disguise that she’s shooting in the present—often in the locations found in the novel. This historical disconnection effectively contributes to the overall ethos found in this delicate, highly moving and special work. To paraphrase Jean Renoir, nothing is more avant-garde than what comes from your heart.