Lady in Distress
Gustav Klimt was an Austrian painter famously known for several of his portraits and because he was the founder of the Vienna Secession Movement. An artist group that didn’t go along with the more official Association of Austrian Artists. The founder of the ‘Ver Sacrum’ magazine was accused of promoting pornography with a couple of his most famous paintings. Before he died he did two works for one of his most prominent promoters, rich industrial Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer. The first one “Adele Bloch-Bauer 1” is the subject of this movie.
MOVIE: Woman in Gold
PRODUCER: Origin Pictures
Woman in Red
Who isn’t familiar with the story? Europe, World War II, Austria. Does it ring any bells? Bloch-Bauer brothers, were Jewish and wealthy. Two difficult circumstances in that awful, monarchic and fascist Europe. They were also Austrians and they lived in Austria, Germany little gothic minion, so when Hitler decided to march at their Nazi speed, first destiny was the Ringstrasse. And among those first victims were the Bloch-Bauer’s and their relatives. Maria, daughter of Gustav Bloch Bauer and niece of Ferdinand and late Adele (Helen Mirren/Tatiana Maslany) got to escape of the country with her husband Fritz (Max Irons, son of Jeremy) when things were getting tension filled and surly. Their destination was of course the United States of America, land of the free –at least while Trump is not president- home of the brave.
The movie starts with the scene where Adele is urging Gustav Klimt to make the damn painting already; immediately thereafter we go to a cemetery where Maria is saying goodbye to her late sister Luise who has recently passed out and let her a series of letters. Maria asks her friend Barbara (Frances Fisher), whose daughter is a lawyer if he can take a look at them.
Enters Randy Schoenberg (Ryan Reynolds), lawyer in a not so fine economic situation. He has just started to work in a firm after he failed on his own. His boss, Sherman, played by a really unused Charles Dance, is sympathetic and is not ignorant of his subordinate relatives: father, retired judge Ronald Schoenberg and grandfathers are famous Austrian composers Arnold Schoenberg and Eric Zeisl. He has some big shoes to fill. And a new, unwinnable case for a friend of his mother might not be the way to go. But what is this case?
Simple enough, taking the Republic of Austria to the court for the illegitimate acquisition of the paintings while Nazi occupation. Will Randy be able to pull that through with the help of Hubertus Czernin (Daniel Bruhl) and the support of his pregnant wife Pam (Katie Holmes)?
For the Gold
There’s some background we must not forget. ‘Woman in Gold’ as is the painting commonly known is one of Austrian treasures. Klimt captured the essence of Vienna on that oil and gold canvas and Austria really tried to fight what it was, essentially, a tremendous injustice. More than one-hundred thousand artworks were stolen by the Nazis during World War II and just a fraction of them were returned to their legitimate owners.
Simon Curtis (‘My Week with Marilyn’) does an excellent job on telling the story while not being derivative. The film is divided between three timelines: when Maria was a child and admired her aunt Adele. When Maria was a recently married woman and was trying to escape Nazi occupied Austria. And 1998, when an old Maria Altmann received the letter from her sister Luise and began her search for justice.
The movie didn’t count with a huge budget (11 million) but producers handled to get excellent actors to tell the story. Mirren and Reynolds are always on screen and sparks fly when they tease each other. You’ll laugh a good number of times.
What’s most disappointing, perhaps, is the ending which was delivered in a truly anticlimactic way. Probably because that was how it was in real life.
If you have two spare hours, check it out on Netflix.