NEVER LOOK AWAY – A Review by Cynthia Flores
Never Look Away is nominated for Best Foreign Film in this year’s Oscar race and for good reason. It is a brilliant and moving story inspired by real events and the life of German painter Gerhard Richter. Spanning three eras of German history thru the eyes of one talented little boy named Kurt (Cai Cohrs) who grows up to influence the art world. The film gets its title from something young Kurt is told by his vivacious Aunt Elisabeth (Saskia Rosendah) who had a tragic life that influenced him greatly. She takes the boy to an art exhibition of “degenerate art” in Dresden and tells him to “never look away because everything that is true holds beauty in it.” This bit of advice is kept close to his heart as he grows up in the Nazi era. He even witnesses and survives the bombing of Dresden during WWII.
Once Kurt Barnert (Tom Schilling) is grown, we see Kurt make it into the Dresden art school where he meets and falls in love with Elizabeth Seeband (Saskia Rosendahl), the only daughter to Medical Professor Carl Seeband (Sebastian Koch) and his wife Elle (Paula Beer). The good doctor is hiding the terrible secret that he was an SS doctor and the one responsible for the murder of Kurt’s aunt and hundreds more. Now Elizabeth’s father has left his Nazi past behind him and follows the socialist ideology of East Germany.
Kurt has gone as far creatively as he can within the oppressive regime of the Socialist party, so he and his wife make the daring choice to cross over to West Germany just as the wall that will separate the country is being built. Once there, Kurt lies about his age (he was considered too old) to be admitted to the famous modern art academy in Dusseldorf where he can study and find out exactly what kind of contemporary art he can create. His brilliance is at once noticed by the head of the school Professor Antonius van Verten (Oliver Masucci), and he pushes him to fight past all that he has created before and find his authentic voice. This results in a breakthrough for Kurt with some stunning pieces of art but has tragic results for his father-in-law who is forced to reckon with his Nazi crimes because of what Kurt creates.
The writer/director, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, explores a subject matter that is both unusual and compellingly ambitious. He makes use of a sweeping historical backdrop to tell a highly personal and emotional story through the portrayal of three human destinies. It’s tough to make an engrossing film where a significant portion of it is watching someone paint or make art, but this director has pulled it off. I was mesmerized as Kurt used paint to bring to life what he had inside of him. Never Look Away is a gripping drama and moving family story about what it means to create art and by the search for an artistic voice of one’s own. I give this powerful film a solid A+ rating and urge you to see it on the big screen.
Directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck
Written by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck
Selig Rating A+
Running Time 189 min
Drama / Foreign Language
Limited Release February 15th Angelika Film Center Dallas & February 22nd Angelika Film Center Plano
Starring: Tom Schilling, Sebastian Koch, Paula Beer, Oliver Masucci
The Selig Rating Scale:
A – Excellent movie, well worth the price.
B – Good movie
C – OK movie
D – No need to rush. Save it for a rainy day.
F – Good that I saw it on the big screen but wish I hadn’t paid for it.