The end credits of Wes Anderson’s movie The Grand Budapest Hotel reveal that the screenplay was inspired by the writings of Stefan Zweig – chiefly his 1939 novel Ungeduld des Herzens (Beware of Pity) and a 1940 film script (developed jointly with Berthold Viertel) Das Postfraülein (The Post Office Girl).
The Grand Budapest Hotel is not the first time Stefan Zweig’s work has been adapted for the big screen. In 1936, the screenplay of a French film, Fear, directed by Viktor Tourjansky, was based on Zweig’s novel of the same name. In 1950, Das Postfraülein (The Post Office Girl) was also made into a movie.
As the lead graphic designer, Annie Atkins was responsible for every graphic prop in The Grand Budapest Hotel:
“Once the layout of each design had been decided, then it was time to make the prop physically, and make something that will work on set in an actor’s hands. I use traditional methods in graphic prop-making wherever possible: a dipping pen and ink for any handwriting; and a real 1930s typewriter for typewritten documents.”
In the movie we see a glimpse of a red electric typewriter, out of focus and almost out of shot, on the desk of the narrator-author (Tom Wilkinson) in the opening scene, before he drifts into a flashback of his days as a young writer (Jude Law). As far as typewriter sightings go, that’s it.
Luckily, we have Stefan Zweig’s typewriter to fall back on …
Zweig’s Underwood typewriter at the Stefan Zweig Centre, Salzburg, Austria
In The Grand Budapest Hotel, the characters of the narrator-author (Wilkinson) and the gregarious concierge M Gustave (Ralph Feinnes) are based on Zweig himself. Like Gustav, Zweig’s life was disrupted by the rise to power of the Nazis. Being of Jewish extraction, he was forced to flee Austria as a refugee.
The most widely translated of German authors, Zweig was little known and largely forgotten until the release of The Grand Budapest Hotel led to a resurgence of interest in his life and work.
During the height of the roaring Twenties, Zweig worked as a journalist, travel writer and playwright, before establishing himself as a novelist. His books (and lectures) were especially popular with women.
Zweig and his second wife Lotte Atmann
Like Kurt Tucholsky, Zweig committed suicide (Lotte too) while exiled from Nazi Germany in Petropolis, Brazil in 1942. For more on Zweig, read How a Viennese author inspired The Grand Budapest Hotel.