Monday evening. Five to eight. Yawning void in the cinema hall and a film that, by the sound of it, could be anything: “Woman in Gold”. An epic three hour long historical drama? A detective story? Or maybe the sequel to the mediocre horror flick “Woman in Black”? Luckily, it is none of the above.
At the turn of the 20th century, Austrian painter Gustav Klimt created an iconic masterpiece: The woman in gold. Officially named “Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I”, the painting was commissioned by Adele’s husband Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer, a wealthy industrialist and lover of the arts. It was greatly admired by family and visitors until the Nazis invaded Austria in 1938 and began disowning Jewish families like the Bloch-Bauers of all their properties.
Decades later, the Austrian government decides to return artworks that have been stolen by the Nazis to their rightful owners. Maria Altmann, one of the last remaining members of the Bloch-Bauer family, has made a new life for herself in Los Angeles and wants nothing to do with the country she was so brutally betrayed by. Still, she is intrigued by the thought of getting back something that not only belonged to the family she had to leave behind, but is also the legacy of her beloved aunt who died when Maria was only 9 years old.
Together with young attorney Randol Schoenberg, Altmann (played by Helen Mirren) tries to get the paintings back. Hesitant at first, she becomes more determined after Austrian authorities refuse to return any artwork or even negotiate. Over the space of several years, her and Schoenberg (Ryan Reynolds with glasses and a set of false teeth) travel to Austria, go to courts and start to come to terms with the past.
The way director Simon Curtis weaves together past and present events make “Woman in Gold” a pleasure to watch. The film tells many stories in one: the preservation of history, the terrors of World War II, the friendship between generations and the return of artworks to their rightful owners as a sign of respect to the survivors of the Holocaust.
“Woman in Gold” is for anyone who likes a good story – and who doesn’t?