Never Look Away (2018, Germany, Dir: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck)
Well, director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck may be in the lead for having one of the longest names in the history of cinema.
I can’t say I even remembered his earlier movies in my movie brain: The Tourist (2010) was B grade Hollywood entertainment. I didn’t ‘get’ The Lives of Others (2006) though most everybody else loved it, and it got critical acclaim. I frankly didn’t think much of his work. He hasn’t made a movie since 2010. Many times, in those instances, the director just vanishes.
So, I was quite surprised when I randomly came upon Never Look Away by accident on Netflix. I think it’s of the greatest movies I’ve ever seen. Most of the newly produced ‘content’ on Netflix is just a waste of my time, frankly, but there are a few gems.
One of the reasons I like certain directors is an emphasis on visuals over dialogue. I personally don’t think “words” illuminate much truth in life or art, rather it is what we see visually that is the most meaningful.
Never Look Away, which is all about art and the internal genesis creation of it, follows this dictum in spades. The story appears to be largely based on the life of acclaimed artist Gerhard Richter, who has disclaimed it (not that it matters — it’s still about him). I remember seeing one of Richter’s most famous paintings (Reading) at SF Moma in San Francisco many moons ago (an incredible work) – now, that painting’s meaning takes on other dimensions after seeing this movie.
Never Look Away spans three decades in Germany, through the horrors of Nazi Germany to the West/East German split in the 1960s.
The movie opens with a horrific scene of his sister, suffering from mental illness, beating her head with a glass bowl, blood rushing down her face, after playing beautiful notes on piano. It’s shocking and brutal. She then tells him “everything that is true is beautiful.”
“I’ve seen what I’m supposed to do with my life. I see how it all fits together.”
Maybe once every couple years, I see a movie that is just mind blowing. This is one of them. The film deals with some brutally difficult life choices and consequences. It’s sometimes hard to watch, but worth every minute of your time.