Woman in Gold Blu-ray Review
The Nazis were responsible for much death and destruction in their evil regime. Most people know of the millions of Jews that they killed. Some may not realize that the Nazis stole many paintings, jewelry and priceless items from the Jews. WOMAN IN GOLD tackles a case that focuses on five paintings by Gustav Klimt stolen from the Bloch-Bauer household in 1938.
Maria Altmann (Helen Mirren) is an Austrian woman in her 80s who just buried her sister in 1998. She has lived in America for over 50 years. She discovers in her sister’s effects some letters detailing her desire to get the paintings stolen by the Nazis a half century before. She seeks the advice of a friend whose grandson is a lawyer. His name is Randy Schoenberg (Ryan Reynolds) and he’s an attorney just starting out. He tried to make it on his own, but struck out. Now he’s starting with a large firm.
Maria tugs on Randy’s Austrian roots for him to take the case. His two grandfathers were famous Austrian composers. At first he is reluctant, but then he finds out how much the paintings are worth and that peaks his interest. There had been new restitution laws being drafted regarding items stolen by the Nazis. The feature painting in question was Klimt’s “Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I” or “Woman in Gold” as it had been known to wipe away the Jewish connection. This was Maria’s aunt and she died at a young age in the mid twenties.
The duo goes to Austria to see if they can work something out with the Austrian government about these paintings. They are helped in the cause by investigative reporter Hubertus Czernin (Daniel Bruhl), who had been instrumental in pulling back the curtain of the dark past of Austria in regards to the Nazis. Hubertus warns them that the government won’t just give them the paintings. They regarded the “Woman in Gold” as the “Mona Lisa” of Austria, so they held it in high regard.
This film is similar in ways to “Philomena”. Both films have older women trying to get justice for something that happened in the past. Both are helped by younger men who start these quests in not the noblest of fashions, but change their tunes as the story goes along. Both go on road trips. “Philomena” has a lighter touch, but there is some humor in WOMAN IN GOLD. Both relied on chemistry between the two people. Judi Dench had chemistry with Steve Coogan, while there is definitely chemistry between Reynolds and Mirren.
Austria denies their request and appealing the decision would cost a fortune. In Austria at the time the cost would be a percentage of what the paintings were worth. At that time they were worth over 100 million dollars and it would be over one million dollars to appeal. Months would pass until Randy found a way where they could sue Austria in the US. The case would eventually get to the US Supreme Court and back to Austria for arbitration.
While the action in the 90s was going on, the movie would flashback to the 30s and to when the painting itself was being done. Tatiana Maslany played the young Maria here as she and her future husband tried to escape Austria and the Nazis. It could be somewhat jarring going from one time period to another, but overall it worked. You got the sense of the horrible things the Nazis did to the Jews in Austria and how they barged into Maria’s home and put the people under house arrest.
As mentioned previously, Mirren and Reynolds work well together. At first Randy is consumed with how much he was going to make with this case. It soon became a labor of love that he could not let go even when Maria wanted to. The fight and determination is evident in both characters. WOMAN IN GOLD is a solid piece of work. It tells an important story of stolen art and valuables by the Nazis. This is history.
Video: The different locales look great on the screen.
Audio: The sound was good throughout.
Feature Commentary with Director Simon Curtis and David M. Thompson: A solid commentary from two people that clearly appreciate the source material and the story they’re telling.
The Making of Woman in Gold (23:41): The filmmakers and actors discuss the making of the film. The real life participants like Maria and Randy are featured here. Maria’s interviews come from an earlier documentary since she died in 2011. The director tells why he wanted to do this piece. The two main actors discuss their real life characters and what it was like working with each other.
Neue Galerie New York Press Conference (10:38): Renee Price and Ronald Lauder discuss the main art piece, the plight of these paintings, Klimt and of Maria. This is where the art pieces ended up after auctions.
Stealing Klimt Documentary Trailer (2:39): You get to see more of the real Maria talking from the earlier documentary.