Escape to Life: The Erika and Klaus Mann Story

  • Directors – Wieland Speck, Andrea Weiss
  • Producers – Greta Schiller, Thomas Kufus
  • Music composed by – John Eacott
  • Duration – 85 min.
  • Year –  2000
  • Country – Germany


Erika and Klaus Mann, the two brilliant eldest children of Thomas Mann,
often claimed to be identical twins. Born 1905/6 into Germany's leading literary family, they shared the struggle to assert their individuality and creativity whilst living within the large shadow cast by their famous, Nobel Prize-winning father.

Based on their first common book published in english, Escape to Life, the film takes place at a turning point in their lives, the beginning of their exile years from Nazi Germany. They both left their country the very month Hitler came to power and continued to agitate against Nazism from Germany's neighbouring countries until the USA became their last place of exile. Erika and Klaus Mann were writers, actors, pacifists, homosexuals and an early breed of modern Europeans. In a time of great moral and political uncertainty, although their lives were riddled with contradictions, their convictions were clear and unwavering. Klaus was a writer who saw his work banned from being published during his lifetime. Erika was an actress who faced actual laws passed against her performing in Europe. She was married twice: once to the actor Gustaf Gründgens, and once to the poet W.H. Auden, through whom she was granted British citizenship. Klaus joined the American Army to fight against his former homeland.

The film's drama sequences are interpretations of the writings by Klaus Mann whose fiction was very close to his and their own life experiences.
Klaus Mann’s most famous novel, “Mephisto”, became post mortem a bestseller in Germany. In 1980 István Szabó made the film of the same name, based on the novel.

Screening on: 5 May / 19:00 / Kolga

A project of