Never Look Away
Never Look Away is a decades-spanning saga about a German artist whose practice is shaped by the turbulent politics of his home nation during the mid-20th Century
The third feature film by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck (director of Oscar-winner The Lives of Others) is an epic three-hour tale of an artist constrained by ideological context. Never Look Away is an ambitious, challenging watch; the tone often shifts from straight biopic, to camp melodrama, to heightened thriller. This is part of the meta narrative of a film dealing with the nature of art’s relationship with reality and wherein lies the truth.
Kurt Barnert (Tom Schilling) is a child visiting a museum with his aunt in Dresden in 1937. The Nazis have kept a small selection of what they deem “degenerate” art and Kurt is taken by the expressionism. This first chapter covers a childhood strewn with tragedy; his aunt is committed to an institution diagnosed with schizophrenia, two uncles are killed in the war, and he watches the city of Dresden burn in the firestorm.
What follows is the maturation of Kurt from someone with artistic talent used for the purposes of serving East German communist ideology, then misdirected by the unbridled freedom of the West, to the discovery of his own artistic style: one which allows him to deal with his own history and the tragedies of the past.