NEVER LOOK AWAY – WERK OHNE AUTOR | Film Review

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Best known for his previous remarkable work with his 2006 German drama The Lives of Others (Das Leben der Anderen) Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck returned to the dark German history facts to pen Never Look Away, a film inspired by true events loosely based on German artist Gerhard Richter.


Sebastian Koch as Professor Carl Seeband
Photo by Caleb Deschanel, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

Never Look Away, a 3-hour 8 min. film in German with English subtitles, takes audiences through three eras of German history, from Nazi Germany to East Germany’s Russian occupation followed by the erection of the Berlin Wall before which the lead character Kurt Barnert, expertly played by the talented Tom Schilling, escapes to the West to make a living as an artist there. As a child, Kurt has to witness the horrid actions committed against one of his family members enforced by the authoritarian German government during that time. As a young adult, he falls in love with Ellie, a fellow art student, unbeknownst that fate had already connected them and how this would affect him as an adult down the road. His love for art and for Ellie, excellently played by Paula Beer, seem to ground him and give him some sense of satisfaction amidst the political world they live in, but there are new challenges to deal with out of his control. After he marries Ellie whose devious father, a renowned gynecologist, brilliantly portrayed by Sebastian Koch, is less than thrilled about his daughter’s choice of husband, the young couple encounters an unimaginable kind of scheme committed against them. Kurt eventually finds his calling with paintings reflective of what he has been growing up with which followed him into his present life.

Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

The film is superb, the story is gripping, and the performance of each actor is award-worthy as is the work of the director, the editor and the well-known cinematographer Caleb Deschanel who received an Academy Award nomination for his work of Never Look Away, in addition to the film being Oscar-nominated in the Best Foreign Language Film category. Truth be told, this excellent piece of work could easily be nominated for Best Motion Picture, in my opinion.

With Never Look Away, von Donnersmarck takes audiences on an emotional rollercoaster well worth the two Oscars it was nominated for. The film already made a big impression at its premiere in the 2018 Venice Film Festival where it received the Arca Cinema Giovani Award for Best Film in Competition as well as the Leoncino d’Oro Agiscuola Award and was nominated for the Golden Lion for Best Film.  

Cai Cohrs as Young Kurt Barnert
Photo by Caleb Deschanel, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

The film, which screened at the Paris Theater in New York City at the end of January in front of a full house and a standing ovation at the end, is a thought-provoking superbly written, directed and produced film with a meaningful message that everyone should see. Its deeper message is not only retrospective but also forward-looking as history could repeat itself if one takes the attitude of “looking away” when confronted with unsettling behavior and views.

Never Look Away will be screening in Los Angeles on Feb 8, 2019, and is distributed by Sony Pictures Classics in the U.S.


Watch the U.S. Trailer here: NEVER LOOK AWAY – WERK OHNE AUTOR

Header Image  | Tom Schilling as Kurt Barnert, Photo by Caleb Deschanel, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics