Never Look Away might have missed out on the Best Foreign Film Oscar this past week, but it’s still well worth the three hours you’ll spend watching this German epic. For all the films that have been made about painters, you’ll be hard-pressed to find one that captures so well the mysterious nature of how they transfer their visions into the things they create on canvas. And there’s a great deal more to recommend this film.
Tom Schilling (Woman in Gold) portrays a young artist named Kurt who comes of age during World War II and its aftermath. When he’s a boy, a beloved and mentally ill aunt tells him never to look away from truthful things. He holds to that even when he’s staring at the body of his disgraced Nazi father, who kills himself in the Dresden university where he had been demoted from professor to janitor. Later on, during Communist rule over East Germany, Kurt paints heroic socialist murals while secretly plotting his defection with the woman he loves (Paula Beer). Once he’s in West Germany, he encounters a chaotic and iconoclastic art scene and discovers the inspiration for his Gerhard Richter-like paintings. Besides re-creating Dresden before the bombing, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s film draws a panoramic portrait of Germany convulsed by political upheavals and remaking itself into two very different images. You can call this a Künstlerroman, the German word for a novel about an artist coming of age. We just call it a great film.
Never Look Away runs Fri-Sun at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, 3200 Darnell St, FW. Tickets are $8-10. Call 817-738-9215.