Saturday, June 06, 2015
Woman in Gold (Directed by Simon Curtis; Written by Alexi Kaye Campbell, E. Randol Schoenberg, and Maria Altmann)
Starring: Helen Mirren, Ryan Reynolds, Daniel Brühl, Katie Holmes, Tatiana Maslany, Max Irons, Antje Traue, Elizabeth McGovern, Frances Fisher, Moritz Bleibtreu, Tom Schilling, Allan Corduner, Henry Goodman, Nina Kunzendorf
Why I loved this film: The responsibility of the film-maker when the project is 'based on a true story' is elevated when that same story has significant historical relevance and blends such elements as art, identity, justice and international law. Add to those the quest of a remarkable woman whose family was ripped apart by the Nazi, and more than a history lesson, it becomes a poignant personal story.
Helen Mirren portrays Maria Altmann, the woman who emigrated to the United States by fleeing her Austrian homeland during World War II and leaving behind her beloved family, as well as all possessions. After the death of her sister, Mrs. Altmann becomes aware of the family artwork stolen by the Nazi during the invasion. This is not just any artwork, but multiple pieces from famed Austrian artist Gustav Klimt, including the 'Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer'. See, Adele was Maria's aunt, and the stunning piece (with gold leaf accents) has become 'the Mona Lisa of Austria' while hanging for decades in the state gallery.
The story revolves around Maria partnering with family friend and upstart attorney Randol Schoenberg to take on the nation of Austria and reclaim the extremely valuable artwork that was seized illegally so many years ago. They are aided in their mission by an Austrian journalist who is fighting his own demons. The seven-year legal saga is condensed for the big screen and we follow Maria and Randol as they meet with the Austrian art reclamation committee, a federal judge, the U.S. Supreme Court, and finally a mediation committee back in Austria. But this is not really a courtroom drama, it is a personal quest for justice and search for identity. The role that family roots and history play in turning us into who we are today as seen through the eyes of a woman who has survived what most of us can only imagine.
Director Simon Curtis uses startling flashbacks to provide glimpses of Maria's childhood, her marriage and subsequent escape. We get to know her family and realise the impact of the Nazi takeover in their lives.
Helen Mirren delivers yet another exceptional performance and manages to pull off the snappy lines while also capturing the emotional turmoil Mrs. Altmann endures.
I must also warn the more sensitive souls to bring your tissues as you may be weeping in the end.