Woman in Gold, 2015, USA/UK
Maria Altmann (Helen Mirren; Tatiana Maslany as a young woman) comes from a wealthy Austrian family, but lost everything when she had to flee Vienna after the Anschluss just before the start of WWII. Her aunt (Antje Traue) was the subject of Gustav Klimt’s “Woman in Gold”, a painting that was taken off the walls of her family home by the Nazis. After her sister’s funeral, she discovers paperwork that leads her to believe that she may have a way to get the painting back as restitution. She hires Randy Schoenberg (Ryan Reynolds), a young attorney and son of a family friend, and along with an Austrian investigative journalist (Daniel Brühl) work to build a case and take the Austrian government to court.
This film is based on a true story, which I’d first learned about in the documentary, The Rape of Europa. The Nazis stole artwork from all over Europe, and to this day, there are still restitution claims being dealt with, and there’s still a worldwide effort to ensure that art collections do not contain stolen art. Many paintings and pieces of art are still missing, sadly.
To those that are interested in this subject matter, Woman in Gold will be a riveting film. Altmann’s story is beautifully told, and both Mirren and Maslany are excellent. Admittedly, I am very unfamiliar with Maslany’s work, though I have heard the accolades she had received for her acting, and she was indeed wonderful. And, the vast majority of her dialogue is in German, as well! Brühl is also wonderful, as expected, in a supporting role as the investigative journalist helping out Altmann and Schoenberg, who is acting “in a very particular brand of patriotism”. I was less impressed with Reynolds’ work, which didn’t surprise me, as for the most part he’s not an especially good actor. While he attempts to display emotion during some of the emotional scenes, he remains stilted and awkward. Surely they could have cast a far more talented actor who would be more suited for the part, anyway?
I’m happy to read that this film is doing better than I thought it would. My afternoon screening of the film was almost full (though I think I was the youngest person in the theatre by about two decades!), and it sounds as if it will be expanded into more theatres. This does my heart good, as I hadn’t seen any promotion for it whatsoever (I knew about it as I’m a keen follower of Brühl’s work, as regular readers will know). I had a bad feeling that the film was being “buried” after a very tepid premiere at Berlinale. I’m very happy to be wrong.
Woman in Gold is currently playing here in Winnipeg, and if it’s not playing near you this week, it surely will be in the coming weeks. Do make time and go see it, especially if you’re interested in the subject matter.