Never Look Away

The real art in “Never Look Away” is patience. This German import, which has been entered in the Oscars for the Best Foreign Language nomination, runs for 3 hours, and ergo, it takes its time to help the main character understand his pure artistic talents. 

The movie, inspired by the life of German artist Gerhard Richter, takes place between 1938-1966. The Richter character here, Kurt Barnet (Tom Schilling), learned about art inspiration from his aunt Elizabeth (Saskia Rosendahl), who had mental problems, and was committed. She ends up being the victim of the sadistic head doctor Carl Seeband (Sebastian Koch), and dies years later in another institution. 

Years later in the early 50s, Kurt becomes an art student and falls for another student named Elizabeth (sounds familiar to him), whom he calls Ellie (Paula Beer). The two become lovers, but she turns out to be Seeband’s daughter. And eventually when she becomes ill during a pregnancy, her father gives her an abortion, thus ruining their chances of starting a family. 

After and during the family drama (depending on which comes first), Kurt attends another art school, where he decides to expand his horizons, while struggling with his own issues. 

There are lots of scenes that go on long, being that “Never Look Away” is a 3-hour movie. There are scenes we don’t really need to see like abortions or sterilization threats, because those are among the many things to disturb me, but on a positive note, they are not what the movie is about. The movie is about art, and how you can expand your horizons. You see how the artists can broaden their styles and characteristics, like tracing or even painting themselves, and looking at them is quite lovely.

And the acting here is dazzling. Schilling keeps his sanity and patience with or without his canvas and easel; Koch keeps you at the edge of your seat as the father; and Beer is charming, not just her sex scenes, but also the abortion and miscarriage drama she becomes trapped in. 

Writer/director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck (“The Lives of Others”) offers such a bold and artistic style in the ways he brings out the characters and their feelings and ambitions. And best of all, the paint is easy to wash off.


Categories: Drama, Foreign, History, Thriller

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