NEVER LOOK AWAY
By Mary Cox
It was pouring rain and the wind was gusting when I went to see “Never Look Away” at a special screening for film critics Monday at the Tivoli. Unfortunately, the manager was late and we were left standing outside for twenty minutes. While waiting to get in, one of the other critics mentioned that the movie was over 3 hours long and in German. Needless to say, I wanted to go home right then, but I drove all that way to see it. I thought if it turns out to be bad or boring, I’ll just leave. “Never Look Away” is anything but bad or boring.
Nominated for two Academy Awards, best Foreign Language Film and best cinematography, this is an excellent movie. The three hours went by in a flash. The movie begins in the early years of World War II in Germany when, a 6-year-old, Kurt Barnert, (Cai Cohrs), goes to an art museum with his aunt, Elisabeth, (Saskia Rosendahl). The curator points out all the works of “depraved artists” who abandoned realism for work a kindergartener could do: works of Kandinsky, Modrian and Picasso. As Kurt averts his eyes from the works of art his aunt tells him to “never look away.”
After a scene where the aunt plays the piano for Kurt completely nude, her family takes her to see a Psychologist. It is determined that she suffers from schizophrenia and is institutionalized and sterilized by a Nazi Gynecologist, Professor Carl Seeband,(Sebastian Kock). The Nazi regime sterilized all mentally “defective” people and then killed most of them in the gas chamber.
After the war, the Doctor and a grown-up Kurt, (Tom Shilling) , end up in the Russian Sector. The Doctor is arrested and is to be tried as a war criminal. His life is saved by the Russian Commandant when the Doctor saves the Russian’s wife and child as she struggles with childbirth.
Eventually, the lives of the Doctor and Kurt merge when Kurt falls in love with the Doctor’s daughter over the Doctor’s objections. Kurt, an artist, is plagued with memories of the devastation most German families faced during the war.
“Never Look Back” spans a thirty year period. It is beautifully written and directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck. It does have full frontal male and female nudity and graphic sexual scenes.
It needs to be seen on the big screen to really appreciate the cinematic beauty of this film.
It is playing at the Tivoli.