Hotel Lux (film)
|Directed by||Leander Haußmann|
|Produced by||Corinna Eich
|Written by||Leander Haußmann
from themes by Uwe Timm and Volker Einrauch
|Music by||Ralf Wengenmayr|
|Editing by||Hansjörg Weißbrich|
|Distributed by||Bavaria Film|
|Running time||110 minutes|
Hotel Lux is a period film directed by Leander Haußmann and released in 2011. The tragicomedy begins in Nazi Germany and moves to the Soviet Union. Narrated by main character Hans Zeisig the picture draws on numerous historical facts and personalities of this era.
In 1933, as Germany begins a dark era under the spell of Adolf Hitler, actor and comedian Hans Zeisig (Michael Herbig) and his partner, Siggi Meyer (Jürgen Vogel) have a successful act at a Berlin cabaret doing comic impersonations of Joseph Stalin and Adolf Hitler. Meyer is politically active in the Communist Party and through him, Zeisig meets the attractive Dutch Resistance fighter, Frida (Thekla Reuten). Zeisig is apolitical; he's busy dreaming about a career in Hollywood. To him the growing political tension is merely an unpleasant nuisance, yet the Nazis' power grab has put Meyer in grave danger of arrest and attack. He soon shows up at the theater sporting a black eye and whispers that he's about to go underground. Another performer, a Nazi supporter whose act is a stereotyped and demeaning portrayal of a Jewish man, makes a wisecrack about Meyer's black eye. They get into a backstage brawl, fully made up and in costume—the Nazi as a Jew and the Communist as Hitler. The fight careens its way from the dressing room to the stage, with "Hitler" on top of the "Jew". The audience, larded with uniformed Nazis, initially assumed to be part of the show and cheers. They have been a growing presence at the theater, both to judge the portrayal of their leader and to enjoy the racist depiction of a Jew. When the melee ends, the show goes on, but Meyer flees.
The situation continues to deteriorate in Germany. Audiences grow dour and the theater management has to comply with the prevailing Gleichschaltung. Germany becomes a sinister place where the Kristallnacht happens. Zeisig refuses to take over the defamatory act of the stereotyped Jew. When he is told that it won't do anybody harm, Zeisig states, "It will harm me!" Instead he goes onstage clad in the Hitler costume and pillories the Führer in spite of being aware he also will have to flee. Before his departure he learns Meyer has been arrested and deported to Oranienburg concentration camp. Equipped with a forged passport, a fake beard and an assumed name Zeisig makes his way across Germany and eventually enters the Soviet Union, though his final goal is Hollywood. In Moscow, he arrives at the Hotel Lux, a real hotel in Moscow, where many exiled German Communists sought shelter during the Nazi era. Zeisig has been advised to seek out the hotel, that he will find help there.
Zeisig quickly runs into Frida, who under a different name, has an important position in the exiled German Communist Party. He also encounters numerous historical figures, such as Walter Ulbricht, Herbert Wehner and others, who after the war, became important political figures in East Germany. The apolitical Zeisig has landed in a hotbed of political intrigue and purges and all important conversations are held with the water running to cover up what's said for those on the other end of the ubiquitous bugs. Zeisig begins to wonder if he is in more danger at the Moscow hotel than he was in Nazi Germany. He is fetched for a ride to an unknown location and discovers that his assumed identity is none other than that of Hitler's astrological advisor, a person of great interest to Stalin, whom he soon meets in the only available safe place, the bathroom. Stalin motions for him to come forward, but keep silent until he has turned the water on. With the Great Purge underway, Zeisig realizes that his life depends upon his ability to stay in Stalin's good graces. While Zeisig narrowly escapes one danger after another, revives his friendship with Meyer gains Frida's support.
Hotel Lux was in pre-production more than four years because the script went through two screenwriters and Herbig, a popular comedian, actor and director known as a perfectionist, required changes before he would sign on. He found the first versions of the script to be "too dramatic, too brutal" and came on board when a lighter tone was reached. Herbig said he could finally relate to the character, a clueless comedian.
Luckily, Herbig has personality with a capital "P," and the popular spoofer has great fun channeling the aura of stars from cinema's past. The same can be said of Haussmann's entire concept, utilizing devices from another era including elaborate studio sets, matte paintings, dolly shots and the like. It's playfully old-fashioned and visually pleasing
Hotel Lux is an entertainingly meandering historical comedy that begins in Nazi Germany in 1933 and moves to the Soviet Union five years later. Oscillating between drama and farce, the film boasts rich cinematography and elaborate historical production design.
The official German film evaluation institution Deutsche Film- und Medienbewertung rated Hotel Lux as "especially valuable" (besonders wertvoll), the highest rating possible.
The production company has released teaching materials related to the film.
Notable figures portrayed or mentioned (selection)
Other historical references (selection)
- Herbert Spaich, Film review Filmspaicher Das SWR-Kino-Blog (October 29, 2011). Retrieved November 13, 2011 (German)
- Catherine Hickley, "Stalin Cavorts With Hitler in Communist Spoof ‘Hotel Lux’: Film" Bloomberg News (November 2, 2011). Retrieved November 13, 2011
- Alexander Cammann, "Müde Kalauer im roten Bunker" Die Zeit (October 23, 2011). Retrieved November 13, 2011 (German)
- Magdi Aboul-Kheir, ""Hotel Lux" oder: Wenn Leander Haußmann mit Bully eine Komödie dreht" Tagblatt (September 20, 2011) (German)
- Nick Vivarelli,First deals to trickle through are buzzed black comedy "Hotel Lux," by Leander Haussmann, sold by Bavaria Film to Italy's Archibald, and "Noordzee Texas," by Belgium's Bavo Defurne, picked up by Italo specialty label Atlantide from Wavelength Pictures.Variety. Retrieved December 25, 2011
- Scott Roxborough,AFM 2011: Bavaria Sells 'Hotel Lux' to Italian Distributor Archibald Film The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved December 25, 2011
- Film Review
- Film Review
- Filmheft LUX (Teaching materials) (PDF) Hotel Lux film website. Retrieved November 9, 2011 (German)