Critic Reviews



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At a daunting 188 minutes long, Never Look Away takes its time, doesn't force its themes. Like one of those novels that follows a family through multiple generations, Never Look Away follows Kurt from Dresden, to Düsseldorf, to Berlin.
Never Look Away, a cohesively integrated collage of many genres (history, war, crime, medical drama with romance and spectacle), is also a feast of fine acting and magnificent visuals. But with so much going on, viewers, as if confronting impressionistic paintings or pixel-based photorealistic portraitures, need to step away to get a better picture.
The lines between good and evil are clearly demarcated at the outset and remain more or less fixed as the story progresses, a strategy that in no way compromises the filmmaker’s ability to mine fresh complications and surprises from his story.
Never Look Away is an often moving, thoughtful drama about the correlations between personal experience, politics and art.
In the end, Donnersmarck has it both ways: He’s sentimental and he’s provocative, a craftsman who has something to say and it going to take his time saying it.
One of the subtler strengths of Never Look Away is the canny evocation of a war-weary, defeated population who did not experience communism as a revolution but a substitution. The insignia and the catechisms changed, but the underlying attitudes remained grotesquely similar in their callous prioritization of dogma over decency.
The work’s considerations of the intimate connection among being, art and life finally feel quite superficial.
In emphasizing how art allows us to make sense of the past, and consecrate even the most banal of sins, Von Donnersmarck loses his grip on the emotional payoff of the present.
We watch as the film moves from year to year, the characters sometimes disappearing illogically, with Kurt forever at work on one unsatisfying project or another, until he finally finds a subject that speaks only to him. The movie’s German title — Werk Ohne Autor, which means Work Without Author — seems almost too apt.
As Kurt finds his true art in the West, thanks to the help of a fictional version of Joseph Beuys, the film turns gripping, but it ultimately reduces art appreciation to the autobiographical.

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