Thursday, April 2, 2015
Woman in Gold 
CNS/USCCB () review
Salzberger Nachrichte (M. Meidl) review*
Der Spiegel (K. Heinrich) review*
ChicagoTribune (M. Phillips) review
RogerEbert.com (S. Wloszczyna) review
AVClub (A.A. Dowd) review
Woman in Gold  (directed by Simon Curtis, screenplay by Alexi Kaye Campbell) tells the story of Holocaust survivor Maria Altman (played magnificently in the film by Helen Mirren) and her young, still intimidated by the stories of his elders, lawyer E. Randol Schoenberg (played again spot-on by Ryan Reynolds) who was also the son / grandson of Holocaust survivors and of a family that was friends with Maria's since both families lived in Vienna BEFORE THE NAZIS.
Together, they acheived a remarkable (and poignant) feat of restorative justice -- the recovery of a famous portrait of Maria's aunt Adele Bloch-Bauer (played in flashbacks in the film by Antje Traue) painted by Gustav Klimt (played briefly in a flashback by Moritz Bleibtreu) that once graced the childhood home of Maria (played in flashbacks as a child by and a young, newly married woman by Tatiana Maslany) in Vienna before the Nazis took-over and which, since the Nazi-era, had hung in Vienna's Belvedere Gallery.
Now it had been her Adele's wish that following her death (which actually occurred in the 1920s - due to meningitis) her Klimt paintings hang in the Belvedere. HOWEVER, her husband was the actual owner of the paintings (he paid for them). And he wanted them to continue to hang in his brother's home where he, since he and Adele had no children, he also lived. When the Nazis came, they confiscated the Altman's property, (the family was Jewish). And it was actually BY UTTER ACCIDENT THAT A NAZI HIMSELF "donated" (the STOLEN) painting of Adele Bloch-Bauer to the Belvedere while the Nazis still ruled the roost in Vienna, where the painting stood hanging as "Austria's Mona Lisa" ever since.
Anyway, in the 1990s, fifty years after the end of WW II, the Austrians, trying to improve their images, besmirched again by the "outing" of former U.N. General Secretary and then Austrian President Kurt Waldheim as a probable WW II war criminal (during his service in former Yugoslavia during the war), decided to "revisit" the question of restoring art stolen during the Nazi era to their rightful owners. AND BY THEN 80+ year old Maria Altman decided THEN to pursue the matter of recovering this famous picture of her aunt.
Yes, the case was _somewhat_ "complicated" as there was written proof that Adele had wanted her paintings to (eventually) hang in the Belvedere. But, as I already mentioned above, she never really owned them (her husband did). Then, of course, the paintings were stolen by the Nazis, who killed almost everybody but Maria and her sister from this family. And so this was a battle over a picture of "a woman painted with Gold," but also a picture of a Maria's Aunt whose family the Nazis had "drenched with Blood" ...
Still egos are egos, and the painting, heavily painted with gold as it was, was actually very, very valuable (worth $135 million apparently) ... so a years long battle ensued ... presented then in the film.
However, what I most liked about the film was its portrayal of Maria Altman's family's life BEFORE THE NAZIS CAME. It was _full of life_. At one point, Maria explained to her still so young lawyer that even Sigmund Freud had visited her family's home in Vienna during that time. AND ALL THIS WAS DESTROYED BY THE NAZIS and most of the people that Maria knew from that time WERE MURDERED BY THEM.
So this was truly a lost world, and yes, Maria did deserve to get least this picture of her aunt back.
In any case, AN EXCELLENT FILM.
* Reasonably good (sense) translations of non-English webpages can be found by viewing them through Google's Chrome browser.
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