Florian Henckel Von Donnersmarck directs Tom Schilling, Paula Beer and Sebastian Koch in this period drama following an artist’s development through Nazi Germany, the establishment of socialist East Germany and the conceptual freedom offered by the Düsseldorf Art Academy.
Called, somewhat ironically, ‘Work Without Author’ in its native tongue, here is a brilliant film about how tragedies, both personal and political, impact and inform an artist’s voice. The movie’s grand narrative is a blend of heart wrenching oppression, transgressive sexuality and glorious burst of soapy romantic freedom. The movie reminded me most of the ambitious scale and tone shared by The Shawshank Redemption or Doctor Zhivago. Social upheaval and the brutality of a system are observed within a cosy period accurate palette and the epic sweep of a master storyteller. The terminal cycle of callous bureaucracy a slightly overwhelmed young aunt finds herself trapped within during the Hitler period of Act One sets the tone for the next twenty years of escape, sex and creativity. The acting is fantastic – especially Koch as an SS doctor whose life run parallel with our young painter and Saskia Rosendahl as the doomed Elisabeth, misunderstood, fragile, desirable… she haunts the film entire, long after she is lost to history. This is a great traditional film -moving, unfussily told and beautiful.