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Escape to Life

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About the Film

Narrated by Corin Redgrave and Vanessa Redgrave as the voices of Klaus Mann and Erika Mann.

“Escape to Life: The Erika and Klaus Mann Story” is the result of a remarkable pairing between fiction and non-fiction filmmakers Wieland Speck and Andrea Weiss. It depicts another remarkable relationship, between Erika and Klaus Mann, the brilliant eldest children of German author Thomas Mann.

The Manns claimed to be identical twins, despite being born more than a year apart and different genders. Living under the shadow of Hitler’s rise, Erika and Klaus were intellectuals, homosexuals, and pacifists who lived as exiles in their country. Erika was an actress whose satirical revues were censored throughout Europe. Klaus was a self-doubting writer whose banned novel, Mephisto, didn’t become a bestseller until long after his suicide.

Filled with contradictions and inspiration, their fascinating lives stand as a testament to the power of the individual and art against the forces of history and the worst of humanity. The filmmaking team of Weiss and Speck weave together a seamless blend of dramatic scenes, compelling interviews (including Mann’s youngest daughter), and amazing archival footage.

What the Critics Are Saying

“It’s a stimulating ride, and an often witty one.” — Brandon Judell, PlanetOut

“Intriguing moving documentary” — D.N., Film Journal International

“Brilliant! A stranger-than-fiction tale of fascinating lives in a troubled time.” — Loren King, The Boston Globe

“An imaginative, insightful exploration of the lives and times of two of Thomas Mann’s children… The voicing by the Redgraves is an inspired stroke, underscoring the Manns’ rivalry and intimacy.” — Gareth Evans, TIME OUT London

“An especially interesting documentary… that illustrates the human fates as well as the dictates of history.”— Jukka Kajava, Helsinki (Finland) Sanomat

For a full list of reviews, please see our Press Page.

Selected Festivals, Awards and TV Broadcasts
  • Arte (German/French television)
  • YLE TV2 (Finnish television)
  • South Carolina Arts Commissions Southern Circuit
  • Laemmle Theatres Documentary Days, California
  • Zeitgeist Theater Experiment, New Orleans
  • Quad Cinema, New York
  • Coolidge Corner, Boston
  • Museum of Modern Art, New York City
  • Atlantic Film Festival
  • Cinema Jury Award, Best Documentary Feature, Seattle Lesbian and Gay Film Festival (October 2001)
  • Valladolid International Film Festival Spain
  • Warsaw International Film Festival Poland
  • Bergen International Film Festival Norway
  • Jerusalem International Film Festival
  • Outfest Directors Guild of America Los Angeles
  • Seattle International Film Festival
  • San Francisco International Gay and lesbian Film Festival
  • Double Take Documentary Film Festival Duke University Durham NC
  • Inside Out Film and Video Festival Toronto
  • Human Rights Watch International Film Festival London
  • Berlin International Film Festival
  • Rotterdam International Film Festival
  • Hof Film Days, Germany
Read the Book!

Buy the Award-Winning Book:  In the Shadow of the Magic Mountain: The Erika and Klaus Mann Story by Andrea Weiss (Univ. of Chicago Press: 2008), winner of the Publishing Triangle’s 2009 Judy Grahn Nonfiction Award.