Oscar-nominated in the Foreign Language category earlier this year, Never Look Away lost out to ROMA, understandably. If it weren’t for Alfonso Cuaron, I wouldn’t have been surprised to see director Florian Henckel von Donnersmark gain his second Oscar for this, following that of his debut film, The Lives of Others.
It’s a very fine piece of work, epic in scope in that it traces the early life of an artist, from his childhood under the Nazis to his post-war love affair with the daughter (beautiful Paula Beer) of a former SS officer to his finding his artistic voice at Dusseldorf Art School in the early 1960s.
The film’s closing credits say a thank you to Gerhard Richter, although I believe he’s owed more than that – this is practically his entire early life story, as told by the artist to von Donnersmark in lengthy interviews. The names and a few details have been changed, but essentially, there’s a lot of good detail here that comes from Richter’s recollections.
Whatever the strained relationship between film maker and artist may now be, this is certainly a beautifully-made film, perhaps a little too tasteful in its depictions of afternoon sex and pert skin, but chilling in its portrayal of Nazi efficiency and ideology and in the aftermath of a nation brushing its guilt away.
In the end, it’s about a search for truth in art, and as films about the art world go, this is a pretty good one. Sebastian Koch is excellent as the Nazi gynaecologist (that phrase is enough to send shivers down your neck, no?) and the production design is cleverly augmented by Max Richter’s score (no relation to the artist, I believe..) and Caleb Deschanel’s photography.
It’s three hours long, but like the title says, I never looked away for a moment.