Inspired by the early life and career of renowned contemporary artist Gerhard Richter, Academy Award-winning director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck (The Lives of Others) delves into the dark corners of postwar East Germany to explore the role art can play in times of political chaos and moral confusion.
In 1937 Dresden, the world is about to tilt into madness, a condition that seems to manifest itself early in the brave, troubled mind of a young woman named Elisabeth (Saskia Rosendahl). Her nephew Kurt (Cai Cohrs/Tom Schilling), an aspiring artist, walks in to find her playing the piano in the nude. When he flinches, she tells him, “Never look away. Everything that’s true is beautiful.” The movie certainly makes its own case for beauty, evident in its crisp, gleaming frames and the lush strains of its orchestral score. But the truth is often ugly, and Never Look Away — though as pretty and polished a film as you’ll see this season — does not shy away from acknowledging as much. Telling the parallel stories of Carl Seeband (Sebastian Koch), a doctor involved in genetic “cleansing,” and the young painter whose aunt was killed as a result of one of Seeband’s decisions, the film crosses generations to tell an epic story. Addressing the systemic medical depravity that flourished in the Third Reich, von Donnersmarck also touches on the repression and fear mongering that linger in the aftermath of a fascist regime, and the interplay between freedom of expression, justice, and art. Stately and composed, clear-eyed and engrossing, Never Look Away is classic in its approach and worthy of its title. In German and Russian with subtitles.
(Germany, Italy / 2018 / Written and directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck)
R / 3 hrs 8 mins.