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about yourself
Kirpianuscus1 November 2020
It is one of films who you just feel. Only feel. Because it is about family, past, Nazi regime, cold adaptation to the new realities, love, cinism and survive, art, truth and parenthood, about happiness and about be yourself. A beautiful film, many memorable scenes, great Sebastian Koch and Tom Willing and the fair story. And, no doubts, magnificent portraits . A film who, if you are real honest to yourself, can be only about you.
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boblipton27 January 2019
The movie is loosely based on the life of Gerhard Richter. It begins before the Second World War, when his aunt, Saskia Rosendahl, is diagnosed as schizophrenic. She is consigned by Sebastian Koch, to be sterilized and sent to a hospital for the useless, and eventually killed. Meanwhile her nephew grows up in a life of incidents, until he is played by Tom Schilling. He gets a scholarship to the local art institute (in the Communist zone), where he is forced to create Soviet Realistic art and meets Paula Beer and they fall madly in love. She is coincidentally the daughter of Herr Professor Koch, who is doing just fine, thank you; he operates on his daughter to abort a baby, thinking this will wreck the romance. It does no such thing of course, and when Koch has to flee to the West, eventually his daughter and son-in-law follow. Schilling lies about his age and enrolls in an art school there, but he cannot find a style or subject that satisfies him.

It satisfies most criteria for a Best Foreign Movie Oscar. It's more than three hours long, spans almost thirty years and has many striking images, thanks to the Best-Cinematography-nominated camerawork of Caleb Deschanel. Looking at it coolly, it's self-indulgent in its length. With an eye to making this a work that won't strain the audience's bladders, however, I think that what can best be left out are several sequences of Deschanel's "beauty shots": the bombing of Dresden, with the preliminary bombardment of tin foil; the sequences where Schilling runs through a wheat field to tell his father that he doesn't have to be an artist; and others like those. Yet, even though they do not connect to the story in any meaningful way, I find it unlikely the movie would have achieved both nominations without them. Likewise, we are treated to three major exhibitions of art: a lecture on banned art, which do not serve the purpose of the German volk, exhortations at the first school that art must serve the cause of Socialism, and a long tour through the second school that tells Schilling and the audience about the state of Modern Art in the 1960s, which raised many a chuckle in the audience. In the end, Schilling's successful art anticipates "Art as Curation."

The only villain in the show is Koch, a Vicar-of-Bray character who coldly does whatever he must to succeed, and causes his own eventual failures. Always the nasty Nazi, he's a character whose woes we can take pleasure in. He provides -- along with the cynical art commentary -- a constant sour comedy that brightens this tale of frustration and eventual triumph. That and the fine performances and Deschanel's brilliant camerawork.
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Occasionally brilliant, but nowhere near FHvD's finest
Horst_In_Translation21 October 2018
Warning: Spoilers
"Werk ohne Autor" or "Never Look Away" is a new German 2018 movie and the most recent filmmaking effort by writer and director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck. He is of course still most known for the Oscar-winning "Lives of Others", but this one we got here is only his second film after the latter, which really isn't much. After a not particularly successful journey to Hollywood (Depp/Jolie), it took almost a decade for him to make another movie. Was this one worth the wait? Probably not. It's all weaker than "The Lives of Others" here, the lead performance, the script, the direction, the emotional impact etc. But this doesn't mean it is a bad film or anything. Not at all. I still enjoyed the watch for the most part and these three hours flew by relatively quickly. It is a fairly long film yep, actually unusually long for a German movie these days if we don't count miniseries. I think there was a film by Oscar Roehler five years ago or so that was also around three hours long, one that was even longer by Reitz, but these are the only ones coming to mind. Now back to this one here, story-wise there is very much in here as the film spans over several decades. Early on, the main character is still a child living during the days of Nazi Germany and we find out about his close connection to Saskia Rosendahl's character, seemingly closer than the one to his own parents. Rosendahl (stunning young woman!) gives the epitome of a memorable supporting performance really in the first half hour, maybe more. Very good and I can see why she is considered among the actresses with the most potential here in Germany. This film can only further boost her career. Also let's mention Lars Eidinger, who plays a very small and not particularly significant role in the first five minutes, but he is an absolute scene stealer. I am saying "not particularly significant" because eventually his character's approach to art and how he tells it to the young boy does not result in the boy giving up on the subject, even if he says he has a tendency to. Now I mentioned already two fairly known actors, at least here in Germany, and there are more big names attached to this project, even if most of them only appear in it for a little while with the big jumps in time. One would be Oliver Masucci playing an art professor and he does a pretty fine job as well and his final monologue before he leaves the scene by lifting his head was among the very best the film had to offer. Who else? Oh yeah, Ben Becker has a cameo, but he is really gone so quickly that you almost don't recognize him. Rainer Bock sadly doesn't have too much screen time either, even if he appears (or people talk about him let's say) on several occasions throughout the film.

It is as if all these minor characters shine while Tom Schilling never really does and he is just there. Even compared to Hanno Koffler, he feels almost more forgettable, even if we hardly know anything about the latter and the character he plays. And don't even get me started on Paula Beer (wow she's gorgeous) who starts okay, but gets better and better the longer the film goes. Her father-daughter relationship story is among the very best the film has to offer. Said father is played by Sebastian Koch by the way (you know him from "The Lives of Others" where he played a man whose character could not be any more different compared to here) and he could very well be the best thing about the film. Early on, it is not entirely clear if he is really a bad guy or just an opportunist or may even turn into a good guy eventually when he saves the Russian woman's life (and her son's), but he is as rotten as they come. He constantly bullies the main character and even kills his own (unborn) grandchild because he does not approve of who the child's father is. And at the same time, he robs his daughter of the chance to ever give birth. There is a great irony if you see how he saves the enemy woman's life for his own sake (to get out of jail) compared to what he does to his own daughter. I also would not say he is a tragic character. His past, his cowardice and his affair show that he really seemingly never genuinely experienced the feeling of love. There is one moment I found particularly memorable. I am referring to when he calls himself a "gute Partie" that showed what a narcissist he is. But he gets his fair share in the end, even if he seemingly gets away without having to go to jail. Koch's character could very well be what stays most in the mind from this film. And it is among the biggest strengths. The weaknesses were minor and maybe those were most obvious when the film really focused on the main character. Such as the final bus horn scene that is a reference to early on, but I must say it did not make an impact for me at all unfortunately and was certainly not the greatest way to end the movie. But the moment he starts painting these pictures (based on photos) of the war criminal they are looking for was really good and I had some goosebumps there. I liked it. The music in that particular scene was amazing too. The title I am not a great fan of I must say. The reference at the end with the journalist saying these three words, to me, did not feel significant enough to call the movie like that. The English title is slightly better with a reference to Rosendahl's character's quote, but also not a winner. Overall, it is a good film that does a fine job in mixing German history over the years and decades of the 20th century with a very personal story. The proportion seems right to me. We will see how deep this one goes in the Oscars race this year as it was selected as Germany's official submission for the Foreign Language category. I don't think it is good enough to win FHvD a second trophy and I also don't think it will. But I'd be surprised if it doesn't make the list of final nine contenders and the top five are also a good option I believe. Also visually and stylistically, the movie is probably superior to the majority of other contenders. The final top five are certainly possible and I think it would be okay if the film gets there, even if my prediction is that it will be on the shortlist, but not make achieve the nomination. We will see. But yeah, if you care about German films, especially about history, then this one is close to a must-see. I loved it during certain scenes and I liked it from start to finish. Thumbs up!
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art for one's own sake
lee_eisenberg12 April 2020
Warning: Spoilers
I saw some of Gerhard Richter's works in an exhibit some years ago, and the pamphlet explained the significance of his works in the context of his upbringing. Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck's Academy Award-nominated "Werk ohne Autor" ("Never Look Away" in English) is a fictionalized account of Richter's life, stretching from his childhood in Nazi Germany where he saw the government denounce "degenerate art" (and arrest his aunt for suspected schizophrenia) to his youth in East Germany where he had to contribute to socialist realism, to his eventual move to West Germany.

Don't let the three-hour runtime turn you away. This is one of the richest stories that there is to tell, showing how despite the fictionalized Richter's talent with socialist realism, it simply wasn't what he wanted to do. So then arises the question of how his works will get perceived in the west.

Basically, it's an outstanding movie. If there's another edition of "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", this has to be in it.
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Young boy grows to be an artist, surviving Nazi Germany.
TxMike8 August 2019
I watched this at home on BluRay from my public library. My wife skipped, she doesn't like to see movies with subtitles.

I studied German for two years in college, while I can't converse in it anymore I was able to fit the German dialog with the English subtitles.

While there are several intersecting stories the main thread is Kurt, a boy of 8 in 1937 Nazi Germany, being exposed to various forms of art by his 20-something aunt. As he grows, and WW2 comes and goes, he develops into a quite good painter. He eventually has to escape to West Berlin to be free to develop his talents. The story extends through the 1960s.

Part of the overlapping story is of the Nazi programs to purify their race, to see to it that even Germans who had some sort of affliction were terminated, and this was the fate of his aunt who had the occasional emotional malfunction. As it turns out Kurt unwittingly marries the daughter of one of the evil doctors who it seems had named his daughter Elizabeth, the same as Kurt's aunt.

This is a really good movie and at just over 3 hours didn't seem overly long, I can't think of any scene that I would cut. However I watched it over three different sessions with some overlap each time. In the extra on the disc the writer/director explains, in English, how he modeled his story off a real German artist who developed through this same period.
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Haunting portrayal
Gordon-117 September 2020
This is a haunting portrayal of a dark piece of history and a dark piece of humanity. The art pieces in the film are very good.
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Portrait of the Artist
evanston_dad2 July 2019
"Never Look Away" is director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck's fictionalized biography of artist Gerhard Richter, who's most known for painting photo-realistic pictures of actual photographs.

The film is huge in sweep, beginning in WWII and following Kurt Barnert's (the Richter surrogate) development into famous artist of the 1960s. I don't know how much of Richter's actual life served as material for the film, but surely it wasn't as soap operatic as what's given us here. For starters, Barnert falls in love with the daughter of the Nazi war criminal who was responsible for sending Barnert's aunt to her death as part of a purge of mentally ill people. This allows the film to develop a cat and mouse thriller vibe, as we wait to see when (because we know it's not going to be "if") one or the other of the men figures out their connection. This would be enough for a feature length movie of its own, but there's also a subplot involving the young couple's efforts to have a child, not to mention Barnert's struggles to find his artistic voice. Whew....that's a lot of ground to cover. No wonder the movie is more than three hours long.

But you know what? Preposterous as much of this might sound on paper, I didn't find any of it so in the execution, and I didn't feel the film's length at all. My wife and I started this at nearly 10:00 pm, and neither of us found ourselves having to keep ourselves awake or even restlessly waiting for the movie to end as 1:00 am came around. That's pretty high praise for a director's ability to keep his movie engaging.

Grade: A
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artistic freedom
ferguson-613 February 2019
Greetings again from the darkness. As much as we pride ourselves on 'artistic freedom', the reality is that politics has long played a vital role - either as inadvertent inspiration for the work, or as organized suppressor or moderator. Rarely in history has the latter been more in effect than during the Nazi regime. This film begins at an art gallery in 1937 Dresden as a loving aunt takes her young nephew to an installation of "degenerate artists". Nazi propaganda presented modern art by such artists as Picasso and Kandinsky as a blight on German culture, and proceeded to educate (or brainwash) the populace accordingly.

Writer-Director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck was behind the extraordinary Best Foreign Language Oscar winner THE LIVES OF OTHERS (2006), as well as the all-but unwatchable THE TOURIST (2010). Fortunately, this latest is much closer to the level of the first one, and it has been rewarded by also being Oscar nominated. Miss May, the loving and free-spirited aunt of the opening sequence is played by the luminescent Saskia Rosendahl. As a student, a simple gesture of handing Hitler a bouquet of flowers destroys her psyche, which leads to even more dramatic ramifications. This was an era when being a free-spirit was treated harshly, which could mean mass sterilization or even being "relieved of a meaningless existence." Miss May crosses paths with Nazi gynecologist Professor Carl Seeband (Sebastian Koch), in a gut-wrenching scene that hovers over the entire film, and especially that beloved young nephew.

Tom Schilling (and his turquoise eyes) plays Kurt Barnert (the nephew at older age), one who possesses exceptional artistic talent. As Kurt begins making a name for himself (painting as directed), he meets and falls for design student Ellie Seeband (Paula Beer, FRANTZ). Yes, she is the daughter of the Professor who determined the fate of Kurt's aunt, although Kurt is unaware. As the war escalates, Kurt and Ellie flee to West Germany, while the past haunts all involved.

Once accepted into the new art school, Kurt falls under the guidance of Professor van Verten (Oliver Masucci). It's this Professor's personal horror story that becomes a turning point for Kurt, and enables him to discover his own voice as an artist. During this time, Professor Carl Seeband has smoothly switched allegiances and become a communist to save his arrogant hide, though he is burdened with the knowledge that his war crimes past could catch up at any moment. This man is both family member and villain to Kurt and Ellie, tormenting and belittling at every opportunity. It's fascinating to see how the couple perseveres through his psychological games and even medical malpractice - as if the war, Nazism and Communism weren't enough of a daily challenge.

The film is loosely based on German artist Gerhard Richter, though mostly in the form of his earliest artwork. Mr. Richter is still alive today and still creating. Cinematographer Caleb Deschanel (father to Emily and Zooey) has produced a beautifully shot film, and the result is his 6th Oscar nomination. Brace yourself for a 3-plus hour run time, and the frustrations of how an artist can discover their voice despite an organized singular ideology that one is pressured to accept.
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Long but well done
phd_travel1 April 2019
This is a long and quite interesting biopic of an artist. Some of the scenes could have been edited out.

This shows the life of artist Gerhard Richter from boyhood in Germany before the war to learning art and establishing himself with a major exhibition. Along the way are interesting subplots including his Nazi doctor Father in law.

There are some very well done portions especially the last part when he started to paint from photographs.
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Good movie but disappointing ending to me.
deloudelouvain4 May 2020
Although it's a really long movie (more than three hours) you never get really bored. For that the story is interesting enough to keep your attention. The cinematography and acting are good as well. Sebastian Koch is definitely one of the better German actors, but the rest of the cast did also a good job. There is some disappointment though, at least for me, with an ending that I thought should have been better. But since it's a biography I guess they couldn't make it a better looking end, still to me it was not the outcome I hoped for after watching it for three hours. That's the only reason I score it lower, for the rest it's a good movie.
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A beautiful biopic with true insight.
jdesando5 March 2019
"Everything that is true is beautiful." Kurt Barnert (Tom Schilling)

Never Look Away is a truly beautiful film, catching the biography of fictional artist Kurt Barnet (truly a veiled biopic of renowned contemporary German artist Gerhard Richter). Unlike most artist bios, this one lets you breathe in the Nazi repression and post-war liberation without forgetting Kurt is struggling to find his voice amidst crushing oppression and daunting liberation.

As a young, talented boy watching the abduction of his beloved Aunt Lisabeth (Saskia Rosendahl), Kurt suffers subsequent humiliations before he arrives as an artist moving from social realism favored by the socialists, communists, and Soviet Union to photographic realism, to abstraction and combinations therein favored by the world. To be expected, the memory of his aunt informs almost every major decision of his short life as an unknown young man.

The film, a nominee from Germany for foreign Oscar, is most exciting not when he courts his wife or faces down the Nazis, but when he discovers his voice. It is gratifying to watch the slow process and feel a part of his discoveries. Most artist biopics miss giving that intimate sense of the creative process although in the end the artist is never fully explained even here. That's also what gives such a thrill-the realization that the gift is from someplace unknowable because it goes beyond ordinary human understanding.

Never Look Away is writer/director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck's gift to us of drama and insight, three absorbing hours that seem but an hour. Barely time enough to get to know genius. My gift to you is a short review, so you can spend the time on a timeless movie.
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von Donnersmarck has another pièce-de-résistence to consolidate his status as a major cinematic aesthetician gifted with profound pensées
lasttimeisaw6 April 2020
"That said, the most telling, catharsis-inducing moment we all wait for, is not, as we normally expect, that Kurt will ultimately suss out his father-in-law Carl's heinous goings-on in the past which has a personal, devastating link to him, yes, this is the hard truth, but von Donnersmarck tactfully opts for a more meta-form of truth to be debunked through Kurt's aesthetic-defining artworks, that he connects all the dots without having a concretion idea of the hidden picture, it is only in Carl's total discomfiture that we are granted the satisfaction of a faint semblance of comeuppance, that evades both being cloying and blasé, also magically recaps and validates the mythos bestowed by the gone-too-soon Elisabeth."

read my full review on my blog: cinemaomnivore
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About human creativity and the context in which it is created
howard.schumann14 March 2019
While it is generally agreed that imagination plays a prominent role in artistic creation, it is apparent to all but some academics and literary biographers with a particular agenda, that art cannot exist in a vacuum but also must have a social, historical, and biographical context. Prominent German artist Gerhard Richter said that "when we see a work of art, it is a manifestation of wounds that the artist suffered and decided to turn into something beautiful." One of five films nominated in the Oscar's Best Foreign Film category, German director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck's ("The Tourist") masterful Never Look Away (Werk ohne Autor), is a three-hour plus work that spans three decades of German history from the 1930s into the 1960s, tackling the issue of the origin of human creativity and the context in which it is created.

Set in Berlin, Dresden, and Dusseldorf, Never Look Away, the director's first German work since his Oscar-winning 2006 film "The Lives of Others," is inspired by the life of the artist Richter who, as a child, experienced the firebombing of Dresden and the murder of his beloved aunt in the Nazi's Eugenics program. Taking us from the period before, during, and after World War II to the division of Germany, the Soviet control of the East and the building of the Berlin Wall, the film tells the story of a young artist struggling to find his voice in a political atmosphere that prizes conformity and service to the State over an artist's discovery of their own truth.

Exquisitely photographed by acclaimed cinematographer Caleb Deschanel ("Unforgettable"), Never Look Away opens in a museum in Dresden in 1937 where there is a so-called "degenerate art" exhibit featuring many of the modern artists that Hitler detests for impinging on the purity of German culture. Kurt Barnert (Cal Cohrs, "Path"), a young boy with soulful eyes, takes in the art of Picasso, Matisse, Kandinsky, Paul Klee, and other artists the Nazis consider decadent. The boy, an aspiring painter, visiting with his free-thinking Aunt Elisabeth (Saskia Rosendahl, "Wild"), admires the paintings even while the tour guide (Lars Eidinger, "Clouds of Sils Maria") has something disparaging to say about all of them.

When Kurt says to his aunt, "Maybe I don't want to be a painter after all," Elizabeth tells him that everything that is true is beautiful and to never look away from truth and reality. On the way home, she persuades the drivers of assembled buses to sound their horns in unison so that she can physically express the blaring sound in a whirling dance that is as beautiful as it is surreal. After an episode witnessed by Kurt in which Elisabeth plays the piano in the nude, then attempts to recreate the sound of a particular key by banging an ashtray on her head, the young aunt is diagnosed with schizophrenia and forcibly removed from the home as Kurt, told to never look away, becomes a reluctant witness.

Assigned to SS doctor Professor Carl Seeband (Sebastian Koch, "Bridge of Spies"), Elisabeth is condemned to become part of a Nazi mass sterilization program in which mentally ill and physically disabled women are subject to sterilization and murder, a program that it is estimated killed over 100,000 women deemed unfit to produce children. Fast-forward a few years, the adult Kurt (Tom Schilling, "Woman in Gold"), deeply affected by the death of his aunt, attends art school in Dresden, now a part of Soviet-controlled East Germany where he meets and falls in love with Ellie (Paula Beer, "Transit") who bears a striking physical resemblance to his Aunt Elisabeth. it is only later that he learns that Ellie's father is the same Nazi doctor who condemned his aunt to death by marking an "x" on her chart with a red pencil.

Compelled to produce the social-realist art demanded by the GDR, Kurt and Ellie flee to Dusseldorf in the West along with Ellie's father who no longer receives the protection of a Soviet commandant he once assisted in a crucial moment of his daughter's childbirth. The autocratic doctor, who insists on being called "Herr Professor," wants to prevent Ellie from becoming more deeply involved with Kurt whom he considers weak and inadequate, and is prepared to go to considerable lengths to do that when Ellie becomes pregnant. Accepted into the avant-garde Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, Kurt embraces the kind of artistic freedom that had been denied to him under both the Nazis and the Soviets.

Presiding at the Academy is Professor Antonius Van Verten (Oliver Masucci, "Look Who's Back"), a stand-in for Joseph Beuys, the mentor of an entire generation of German artists and himself considered one of the most influential artists of the second half of the 20th century. Elevated by the powerful score of Max Richter ("Mary Queen of Scots"), Never Look Away is a rich and compelling film that raises difficult questions about the true source of artistic inspiration, offering hints but no easy answers. While there are moments in the film that flirt with melodrama, to its credit, it does not shy away from expressing both the physical and spiritual aspects of art and life in terms that are both intimate and universal.

When Van Verten comes to look at Kurt's work, after telling him the backstory of his own artistic redemption, the teacher's only comment on his work is that "it is not you." After he has the experience that everything in the world is connected and that by freeing yourself you can liberate the world, Kurt realizes that it is only when he is ready to confront the demons of his past that he will be able to express through art, the ineffable truth and beauty of his life.
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Ambitious and epic German historical biopic spans 3 decades of history
paul-allaer4 March 2019
"Never Look Away" (2018 release from Germany; 188 min. original title " Werk ohne Autor" or 'Work Without Author') brings the story of Kurt. As the movie opens, we are told it is "Dresden 1936", and Kurt and a woman we presume is his mom are visiting a museum exhibit about modern are, a/k/a "degenerate art" in Nazi-talk. We later learn the woman is his mom's sister Elizabeth, a free spirit who soon is taken in by the Nazi Heath Department and determined to be schizophrenic, and hence a menace to society that needs to be "dealt" with... At this point we are 10 min. into the movie but to tell you more of the plot would spoil your viewing experience, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.

Couple of comments: this is the latest film from German writer-director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, whose previous "The Lives of Others" won him an Oscar for Best Foreign language Movie. Here he once again looks back at German history, through the eyes of Kurt, loosely based on the life of German painter Gerhard Richter. The movie covers the late 30s to the late 60s, and what a whirlwind of historic events they include. The plot manages to cleverly touch base on many pivotal moments of the time, including of course the post-WWII era in both East Germany and West Germany. With a running time of over 3 hours, there is plenty of time and space to let the characters develop into their own, and as a consequence, it absolutely floored me how quickly the movie flew by. Sebastian Koch (as Dr. Seeband), who played a pivotal role in "The Lives of Others" returns the favor once again, and his work with this inherently unlikable character is outstanding. Special kudos also for the cinematography by Caleb Deschanel, which was Oscar-nominated) as well as the original score by Max Richter.

"Never Look Away" premiered at last year's Venice film festival to positive buzz, and then picked up 2 Oscar nominations (Best Foreign Language Movie, Best Cinematography), where predictably it lost out to "Roma" both times. Regardless, it doesn't make it any less of a movie. The movie opened this weekend at my local art-house theater here in Cincinnati, and knowing that this won't play long, I went to see it right away. The Sunday early evening screening where I saw this at was attended so-so (about 10 people). If you are in the mood for an epic and ambitious historical biopic that covers 30 pivotal years in Germany's history, I'd readily suggest you check this out, be it in the theater, on VOD, or eventually on DVD/Blu-ray, and draw your own conclusion.
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Nazi era first third is more compelling than last two thirds' tale of artist's redemption in post-war Germany
Turfseer6 March 2019
Warning: Spoilers
This is the third feature of noted German director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck who won an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language film with The Lives of Others back in 2007. That film was set in East Germany during the Cold War. But Never Look Away focuses on that period as well as the earlier Nazi period. You might guess that the first third of the new film (the one that is set in Nazi Germany) is far more interesting and compelling than the last two thirds-which deals with the machinations of its artist protagonist Kurt Barnert (played by Tom Schilling who never seems to age), in post-war East and West Germany.

Von Donnersmarck based his story loosely on the biography of one of the most well-known German artists, Gerhard Richter, who grew up as a young boy in the countryside near Dresden where his father worked as a teacher. In Von Donnersmarck's narrative, we first meet the young Kurt being taken to a Nazi exhibit on "degenerate art" in Dresden by his aunt Elizabeth, a sensitive woman in her early 20s, who suffers from mental instability. The fascinating theme is introduced by Von Donnersmarck who implies that the impressionable Kurt (he's a talented artist even as a kid) must deal with the legacy of Nazism from the outset, as must all his German compatriots from that generation.

Von Donnersmarck shows the evils of the Nazi regime on a personal level when aunt Elizabeth has a mental breakdown and is hospitalized against the family's wishes, eventually marked for extermination as a result of Hitler's euthanasia program. In fact, it's von Donnersmarck's sinister antagonist Professor Carl Seeband (a convincing Sebatian Koch), the head gynecologist at the women's clinic in Dresden, who signs the paperwork for Elizabeth's transfer, leading to her murder at the end of the war. Seeband, an honorary member of the SS, figures prominently in the plot and proves to be the most compelling character in the entire drama.

The collapse of the Nazi regime is revealed in a series of startling images including a sea of allied warplanes in a bombing run over Dresden, which virtually destroyed most of the city, as well as the deaths of two of Kurt's brothers in the war. Von Donnersmarck's screenplay takes a fascinating turn when Seeband is imprisoned by the Russians right after the war and saves himself by volunteering to aid a Russian commander's wife who is about to lose her child during childbirth. Von Donnersmarck manages to humanize his antagonist by highlighting his competence as a physician, despite his immoral belief in the "master race." The Russians afford Seeband with "protected status" and like many former Nazis in both East and West Germany, he rises swiftly in the new social order.

The rest of Never Look Away follows Kurt, now a young man, as he eventually becomes a noted mural painter of "socialist realism," in East Germany. Kurt eventually becomes alienated from his Communist handlers, whose penchant to bow to a new authority echoes another one of the director's adroit themes: old wine in new bottles!

Meanwhile Kurt falls in love with Seeband's daughter, Elizabeth, whom he calls "Ellie," as the name reminds him too much of his murdered aunt. Seeband flees East Germany with his wife right before the Berlin Wall goes up as the Russian commander is called back to Moscow and can no longer guarantee that he can prevent Seeband's past from catching up with him. Soon Kurt and Ellie follow suit, and end up in West Germany too.

Again the good point is made that former Nazis completely escape punishment even in West Germany, which is where Seeband sets up shop as a prominent gynecologist head in a big medical center. His aforementioned sinister nature rears its ugly head again when he convinces his daughter she's in need of an abortion on dubious medical grounds. All this to prevent his daughter from having Kurt's baby, which he believes will be inferior, due to Kurt's supposed diminished racial stock. It's all a bit melodramatic at this point with the manipulative Seeband performing the operation on his daughter himself and falsely informing her that she'll never be able to get pregnant again.

After Kurt enrolls in an art school in Dusseldorf, run by an eccentric professor who possesses an "anything goes" philosophy, von Donnersmarck's story gets bogged down in unnecessary diversions including a tour of all the pretentious type of artwork on display as part of the general curriculum at the school.

Never Look Back concludes when Kurt finds his muse and begins creating art based on old photos from his childhood and the Nazi era, which leads to new found fame. With anti-climactic aplomb, von Donnersmarck creates a scene in which Seeband finally gets his comeuppance-he's simply "unnerved" when he sees Kurt's new art work-which reminds him of course of his direct participation in the Nazi euthanasia program. Finally Ellie finds herself pregnant, despite her father's promises to the contrary.

As with most German filmmakers dealing with the legacy of Nazism, there is an emphasis on redemption. In this case, it's Kurt's new found interest in producing "meaningful" art. That's hardly a dramatic revelation and the artist's eventual liberation is communicated in a painfully lugubrious fashion. Nonetheless, the director's unflinching examination of the Nazi era and the failure of the guilty to be punished by successive German governments (whether in the East or West), is a potent reminder how justice is not always served in history, the way we would like it.
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Enlighten my life in this 3 hours movie
ks-6050027 June 2019
Firstly think of its talking about some unfinished business between the doctor and the boy and something dramatical ending would be. Surprisingly, the story turns into something I totally unexpected. The growth up of an artist story didn't bored me at all, in other perspectives, it give me feel strongly on each painting he did. Such feeling never been that strong when I walk into any art galleries when look at the painting. Wonderful for whom like art to watch.
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What do you see?
s327616931 May 2019
Like art itself, what you choose to take away from Never Look Away is, to a degree, highly subjective and very personal.

For myself, it was a how stifled individualism, a characteristic of the collectivism found in Nazism and Communism, finally finds its voice through art. Interestingly, that individualism, for those paying attention, remains, in an sense hidden, to all but a few who understand its underlying context.

In terms of acting, the performances are decent but it is very hard to say more. This is in part due to the very subdued nature of this film, that uses imagery as its dominant medium of expression.

8/10 from me.
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fmwongmd14 October 2019
Well written, directed and acted foreign feature with gripping intensity. Excellent portrayal by Tom Schilling.
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Titillating for the male audience
dierregi15 September 2021
Warning: Spoilers
Filmed from the POV of male voyeurs, it tells the story of artist Kurt, a child growing up in Nazi Germany who had a beautiful albeit unhinged young aunt named Elisabeth. We're shown some of auntie Beth's antics, such as almost nursing her 8 yo nephew on the bus, playing the piano naked and smashing an ashtray on her head.

Elisabeth is disposed off as schizophrenic (that was correct) and then sterilized (totally uncalled for) by the nasty of the story, Professor Seeband, who will eventually send Elisabeth to her death in a gas chamber (that was definitely excessive).

Back to Kurt, surviving in Communist East Germany and painting figurative art, he gets to know and falls in love with another beautiful girl also named Elisabeth and also displayed often in the nude. After unnecessary lenghty sex scenes between the two young leads, we discover that Ellie (Elisabeth 2) is nonetheless than Seeband's daughter. What are the chances?

After more lengthy stuff, including Seeband sterilizing his own daughter (the Professor really had a thing for sterilization) Kurt and Ellie escape to freedom and in West Germany, Kurt finally finds fame with non-figurative art, which may or may not be a joke on the audience (that's up to you to decide).

What about Kurt discovering what Seeband did to his beloved aunt? That part is left dangling and also, the Professor's skills seem not to have been that great, since Ellie do get pregnant, which is an excuse to show off more of her flesh.

Even leaving aside the pretentiousness of the contemporary art world (actually, market since snobbish art stuff is just made to be sold to the highest bidder) the dialogues are unbearably "lyric" (Your paintings will be our children) and the plot diluted as thin as to make the 3 hours feel like 3 days.
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The first and second half of the film is two extremes.
yoggwork29 August 2019
The first half of the film is two extremes. The first half deviated from the middle line of the story. It was too inking on the supporting role and the bedding. It only gave 4-5 points. The second half of the analysis of modern art and the discussion of artistic pursuits were completed. high. If you can go to the story of the aunt and the father-in-law, focusing on the protagonist's compression time to highlight the artistic achievements will undoubtedly make the film quality a step higher.
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Succeeds in all major aspects of moviemaking
bandw9 July 2019
Warning: Spoilers
Director Donnersmarck's screenplay, loosely based on the life of German Painter Gerhard Richter, kept my interest throughout its three-plus hour runtime. Although it is not well advertised, the story presents one of the most affecting love stories I have seen. The relationship between Kurt Barnert (the fictionalized Richter) and Ellie Seeband (his love interest and eventual wife) is delicately set forth, particularly in the early blossoming of their romance. As their love matures we are given some tastefully presented, fairly explicit, sex scenes. Donnersmarck and his actors are not shy about nudity on the screen.

The opening scene takes place at the Degenerate Art Exhibition in Dresden in 1937 where Barnert/Richter (age five) and his aunt are in attendance. This exhibit was assembled by the Nazis to showcase what they considered immoral art that did not "elevate the soul." It's laughable to think about the Nazis pontificating on morality. This theme of the interaction between art, morality, and politics is carried throughout the forty year time span of the movie. During the time that Barnert was living in the GDR he was expected to depict scenes about hardworking citizens. In one art class the students were to draw from models with the male shouldering a sledge hammer and the female holding up a sheaf of wheat. Interesting that art, morality, and politics are still debated. For example, I am thinking of Serrano's "Piss Christ" and Mapplethorpe's "The Perfect Moment" exhibit.

Fortunately Kurt and Ellie ultimately escape to the West. I knew that the Berlin Wall went up to keep the East Germans from fleeing to the West, but, as shown here, it was fairly easy to escape to the West before the Wall went up.

The story strays from the facts of Richter's life for dramatic effect on occasion. In an intriguing plot twist Ellie's father is shown, in his capacity as a Nazi medical doctor, to be responsible for the ultimate extermination of Kurt's aunt. Also, Kurt winds up at the Dusseldorf Academy of Art while the Academy was under the direction of Professor Antonius van Verten--a fictional stand-in for real life Joseph Beuys. The movie promotes the myth concerning Verten/Beuys of his having been shot down in Crimea during WWII and saved by Tartars.

Donnersmark has assembled an able cast. Cai Cohrs, playing Barnert at age 7, had the ability to portray intense absorption in his surroundings, giving a hint as to his ultimate development as an artist. Sebastian Koch is perfect in his portrayal of Professor Seaband, a stiff, aloof Nazi. After the war you see that Seeband had not adapted his personality just to being a good Nazi, rather he was ideally suited to being a Nazi; this worked well for him in the GDR as well. Seeband was capable of evil deeds even after the War. I had never seen Oliver Masucci, who played van Verten, and I was impressed with his ability to capture my attention just in his speaking parts. The women, Saskia Rosendahl as Kurt's aunt, and Paula Beer, as Kurt's love interest, were up to their parts. I would like to have seen Tom Schilling, as Kurt, show a little more intensity, following up on Cohrs' lead.

Much time is devoted to showing Kurt's struggle to find his métier. His initial breakthrough was to start with photo realism and overpaint with some simple full brush strokes. Of course this movie has you asking, "What is Art." As an example, the simple overpainting of a photo image adds an indefinable mystery to the original. Is the original photo not art, but the overpainted one is?

The sound is closely miked. You don't miss door closing, the wind in trees, car motors, sheets rustling, and so forth. The score borders on being intrusive at times, but I really liked the low bass notes that accompanied the love scenes.

This was nominated for an Oscar for best cinematography. The camera work is not flashy but effective. After finding out about the Oscar nomination and watching the movie a second time with an eye toward the color palette, composition, and lighting it is easy to see the justification for the Oscar nomination. Between the sound and lighting the style reminded me a bit of Terrence Malick.

When the final product is of such high quality credit has to be given to the director.
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Superb return to form by LIVES OF OTHERS Director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck
gortx13 December 2018
Warning: Spoilers
LIVES OF OTHERS Director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck has returned with another superb drama using the arts as a backdrop to show the difficult 20th century history of the German people (Henckel von Donnersmarck famously got side-tracked with a disastrous Hollywood film, THE TOURIST starring Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie - it satisfied nobody save for the Golden Globes).

NEVER LOOK AWAY takes a long look at the 30 years between the rise of Nazism to the flowering of modern democracy in the 1960s. It's filtered through the eyes of a budding artist named Kurt Barnert (played by three actors, but, chiefly by Tom Schilling). The movie begins with young Kurt attending an exhibit of so-called 'Degenerate art' in 1938 with his loving, if troubled, Aunt Elisabeth (Saskia Rosendahl). WWII soon breaks out, and Kurt's Aunt is dispatched to an institution. The Barnert family ends up on the East German side of the Cold War. It is behind the Iron Curtain that artist freedom gets stifled once anew. It leads Kurt and his love, Ellie (Paula Beer, who bears a striking, and not coincidental, resemblance to Kurt's beloved Aunt) to escape to West Germany.

Henckel von Donnersmarck, who also wrote the screenplay, takes a novelistic approach to the material. At 168 minutes, patience is a necessity. But, the brilliance of the movie is that it doesn't feel indulgent. Rather, the nuances and symbolism feel of a piece. The cinematography by the great Caleb Deschanel (THE NATURAL, RIGHT STUFF) is expansive, but, in service of the story. The score by Max Richter, too, is artistic, without being showy. NEVER LOOK AWAY's true theme is the pursuit of artistic freedom - and, truth (the title refers to something his Aunt tells him about never looking away at reality - harsh as it may be). While there is no question that the movie crosses over into melodrama, its underlying authenticity isn't. The large cast is excellent, including the two main leads (Beer is particularly exceptional), but to the smallest of roles.

The story is inspired by modernist artist Gerhard Richter, who went through a similar life of turbulence and success (including the forced institutionalizing of a close Aunt). Richter is one of the subjects interviewed in the recent documentary THE PRICE OF EVERYTHING. In it, Richter still expresses his artistic ideal: Art should be in museums, and not in the hands of the wealthy few. Henckel von Donnersmarck's movie is a worthy expression of that idealism. It's also one of the year's best movies.
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Never Look Away (2019)
rockman18216 February 2019
I had time to check out this film yesterday and decided to go for it despite its 3 hour and 9 minute running length. I have seen von Donnersmarck's The Lives of Others and The Tourist (the latter of which was awful). The Lives of Others was great though, so I was in anticipation to see what he would see next. Pay no mind to the running length of this film, its an astounding and really fantastically gripping film that is actually quite inspiring.

The film is about the life of an artist named Kurt from his childhood to adulthood and the events in his life that inspire him to become the artist that he is. Early in his life his aunt is euthanized during Nazi, Germany because of suspicions that she may be schizophrenic. Growing up he struggles to find his calling in life but little does he know that the events of his past are what are present in his current day life, unbeknownst to him. I know this wasn't a really in depth summary but that is intentional as I want you to go see this film and experience it for yourself.

From the opening moments in the museums art gallery to the closing moment of Kurt staring at the camera, this is an alluring viewing. Its beautifully shot and is inclusive of a wide range of emotions and life processes including love, hate, death, despair, ambition, and determination. I liked the love story in the film as well. Normally you would see couples in films bicker but in this film its pure love, passion, and support throughout.

Apparently the film is loosely based on the life of Gerhard Richter. I can't really comment on that accuracy but I will say that the blurred paintings of photographs that Kurt paints are absolutely wonderful. Its so nice to see him finally have that moment and find his true calling and his real motivation for painting. I was actually inspired by Kurt's journey in his life and finale finding that recipe for success. In many ways I can relate.

I was a huge fan of the moving score for this film. Especially in latter stages of the film where it was so effective and just so perfect fit. The acting is good all around and at times the film utilizes subtle humor. I could have actually sat through another hour of this film because it embodies so much of what I wish films would these days.

I'm not often really moved by pictures like I was with this. Every scene in this long film is important as it comes back later. Its just pure art in cinematic form. I rarely ever hand out ratings this high but I really feel like Never Look Away is very deserving of that honor. Indeed, its hard to look away from the beauty on display in this film. Just a truly moving experience that I recommend to everyone.

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Donnersmarck back to what he does best...
DukeEman2 July 2019
An intriguing journey on the life of German artist, Kurt Barnert, following his exploits from pre-war Germany during his devastating childhood till his peculiar success in the wild Sixties of West Germany. All captured with perfect melodramatic flare by the director, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck (The Lives of Others). Florian lost his way when he made that soggy fun comedy, The Tourist (2010), with Depp and Jolie. With, Never Look Away, Florian finds himself back on track.

This epic manages to show the life and influences of an artist via the history of Germany, first under the Fascist rule and later under the thumb of Communist Russia. There Kurt mastered the early stages of his craft in creating propaganda realist paintings for the workers. It was not until Kurt ventured into the West that he found his true calling. To get to that stage was not an easy road for the artist, and that was the fascinating part of the story. At times it felt a little far fetched, but Florian, (who also wrote it), manages to draw you into this fine drama, so mush that I even sustained bladder pressure discomfort because I was so engrossed in this three hour masterwork.
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Great movie and great storytelling -
tm-sheehan25 July 2019
The 2019 Oscar for Best Foreign Movie went to Roma , which I still say in my humble opinion was undeserving and an Emperors New Clothes film for me.

Until I saw the 2019 German nominated movie Never Look Away tonight by 2007 Oscar winning director and screenplay writer Florian Henckel von Donnersmark my vote would have gone to the Cold War, the excellent Polish film.

Thank goodness a trusted movie fan friend alerted my interest to see Never Look Away . Like German Director Donnersmark's previous great film The Lives if Others this epic 3h 9min saga held my interest throughout. It achieved what I love about great Cinema, it captured my interest, moved me deeply and educated me at the same time.

The life story of artist Kurt Barnett ,played superbly by Tom Schilling and inspired by famous artist Gerhard Richter begins in late 1930's in Nazi Germany , when as a young child he is witness to the evil and devastating consequences to his family and home near Dresden of the cruel Hitler regime. The gifted artist who reluctantly is trained and gifted in the Socialist Realism Art School falls in love with Elle Seeband , Actress Paula Beer , also excellent. Kurt has no idea that Elle's father the seemingly benign but detestable human being Professor Carl Seeband played brilliantly by Sebastian Koch ( Life of Others) is responsible for the most traumatic and cruel occurrence in his young life that later is the catalyst for more misery and trauma for the young couple. Eventually the young couple defect from East Berlin to the West . It's the early 1960's and Kurt eventually , after studying Contemporary Modern Art in Düsseldorf and finding his muse and Art inspiration finds fame and finds more importantly some peace with his past .

This movie I can't recommend highly enough , it's about a Nations acknowledgement of the truth about it's past. It's also about the cruelty of War on both sides and more importantly the consequences on the personal lives of the families of innocent civilians .

I learnt more about the importance and value to society of Art and the struggle of the artist to find their true path than any film I've seen recently.
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