The Helen Mirren and Ryan Reynolds starrer British-American biographical drama, “Woman in Gold”, is so far one of the finest films of the year. Many reasons make the film special for many, and one of those is its history that strikes our emotions. It’s an extraordinary true story of a Jewish Austrian lady who is a Holocaust survivor and now has almost lived most of her life away from her motherland, in Los Angeles.
“Woman in Gold” documents the struggle of late Maria Altmann (played by Academy Award-winning Helen Mirren), the Jewish refugee, who waited for a long to fight it out with the Austrian government to claim Gustav Klimt’s iconic painting of her aunt, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer, which was confiscated by the Nazis from her family home, the Bloch-Bauer mansion in Vienna before World War II.
Later after the war, the 1907 masterpiece came to be installed in Austria’s Belvedere Gallery and was considered a national symbol until Mrs. Altmann reaches out about the possibility to reclaim the art treasure 60 years after she left Austria. The film begins with Maria as a widowed owner of a small fashion outlet who was lucky enough to escape to America while most of her other family members died at the hands of Nazis.
Mrs. Altmann then approaches a young lawyer Randy Schoenberg (played by a convincing Ryan Reynolds) and interestingly he was the grandson of the famous Austrian composer and painter Arnold Schoenberg. Together with his client, Randy travels to Vienna on an emotional journey to explore their case while displaying much human interest to bring back the Woman in Gold to its rightful owner.
Director Simon Curtis is amazing in portraying this moving tale while Helen Mirren shines as a holocaust survivor. However, away from the legalities for which I have little knowledge, I find there should be more explanation of Maria Altmann’s sudden interest in the so-called Austrian “Mona Lisa” by trying to take it all out with Austria’s largest public gallery. Then how come a known gallery knowing the history of the painting never really wanted to return the painting to its family (at least when Adele Bloch-Bauer’s will say so)?
Nevertheless, being a student of history and who have read European history as a specialization, any such personal history or stories related to the Nazi era make the whole thing even more appealing. Personally, while I must say that Mirren delivered what was always expected from her, without an ounce of doubt, the film’s direction in those flashbacks of Nazi-occupied Vienna is equally lively and convincing.
Maria Altmann, an octogenarian Jewish refugee, takes on the Austrian government to recover a world famous painting of her aunt plundered by the Nazis during World War II, which she believes rightfully belongs to her family. She did so not just to regain what was rightfully hers, but also to obtain some measure of justice for the death, destruction, and massive art theft perpetrated by the Nazis.
Genres: Drama, History
Directed by: Simon Curtis
Starring: Helen Mirren, Ryan Reynolds, Katie Holmes, Daniel Bruhl, and Tatiana Maslany
Release Date/Year: 9 February 2015 (Berlin), 1 April 2015 (United States), 10 April 2015 (United Kingdom)