German subscription cinema and literature
3. Biedermann und die Brandstifter
Reasons to study this work
Like other postwar works by German playwrights Biedermann is characterised by its sense of impending doom. Short and easy to read the metaphor behind it is well suited to today's environmental crisis showing that art can remain relevant.
The interest of the work
Originally written in the early fifties as a radio play, Biedermann und die Brandstifter, once it emerged in its current form quickly established itself as a commonly performed play and as a school text.
With its range of heavy duty themes, ranging from the individual's power to help shape his own destiny, to the need to display humanity to one's fellow man, the play challenges us in a context which is general enough for us to be able to relate it to a range of potentially cataclysmic situations, whether it be nuclear war or climate change.
Like other plays produced in the 50's in Germany, assigning a genre is difficult as ironic humour transcends a play which is only ever going to have one outcome-and not a happy one. The intervention of the choir at the end of each scene helps lend the play a transcendent quality taking it straight back to the Greek tragedies.