A really enjoyable romp of a film, with great sets and scenery, super cast, lots of good verbal and visual
jokes...what's not to like?
There is a somewhat complex nested narrative structure. It starts with a girl by the grave of a fictional famous writer. She is reading his book. Most of the story is then the story of the book, told by a younger version of the writer; but it's told to him by a now-old man who is himself, as a boy, one of the main characters of the story. From time to time we drop back to the old man telling the story to the young writer, but mainly it stays in the entirely fictional 1930s, in two entirely fictional central European countries. Neither of them are Germany or Poland, oh no, definitely not. Lots of brilliant visual details, in prison scenes, bakery scenes, etc. I loved the decor of the hotel and the writer's apartment in what must be the Communist era - just the right combination of artless cheer and drab.
Curiously the closing credits say it's based on the stories of Stephan Zweig, but if like me you are not a big Zweig fan don't let that put you off - it's much funnier than anything he wrote.