Before I saw it, I was alerted to a piece in the New York Review by Michael Hoffmann. Regrettably it's behind the paywall. An acquaintance read the Hoffmann piece and decided it was so negative about the film that an invitation to attend, first accepted, was foregone. Just saying... I decided to read Hoffman's piece after seeing the film.
The film is set in Germany between 1937 and 1968. At its centre is Kurt Barnert who from childhood displays an interest in and aptitude for making art. Swirling around him throughout this lifetime are Germany's big picture politics - Nazism followed by Russian Occupation, by East German Communism and West German liberalism. Snaking through the politics at every stage is the presence of Professor Carl Seeband (Sebastian Koch) a Nazi doctor who overtly at first and covertly later brutally puts into practice his views about the creation of a master race.
Seeband's life intertwines, in a rather continually contrived way with that of Kurt, the nice guy who finally finds success as a painter. No need to go into how all this occurs because it is a film written and directed with a near Dickensian sense of plot and character arcs, almost a variant of "Great Expectations" and that's its most winning element.
|Florian Henkel von Donnersmarck|
As it is, we follow an interesting tale, full of coincidence and contrivance and taking its own sweet time to cover a momentous period in German history. It looks superb though there's a certain predictability about Caleb Deschanel's photography and I have to say that Hoffman's drawing attention to the film's naked bodies by repeating A O Scott's description of them as 'movie sex' is rather good.
Sunday 9 June 8.35 pm State Theatre
Tuesday 11 June 10.00 am State Theatre ("Selling Fast")
Wednesday 12 June 6.35 pm
Australian Distributor Sony Pictures Releasing
Florian Henkel von Donnersmarck is attending the festival.