From Academy Award winning filmmaker Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck (The Lives of Others, The Tourist), Never Look Away chronicles an aspiring artist who grew up during World War II as he learns how to come to terms with his heartbreak and trauma.
The epic drama deeply roots itself in the life of Kurt Barnert; beginning with the bombing of Dresden and sad memories of his mentally ill Aunt Elisabeth (Lore’s Saskia Rosendahl) being taken away as per the Nazi regime’s intent for a “pure world”. His exposure to loss and poverty are countered by his experience with love as a disciplined student fawning over a fashion student, the alluring Ellie (Paula Beer). Their relationship evolves both of them in ways pertaining to their craft and to their maturity, especially for Kurt who rebuilds his career after a pivotal move to Dusseldorf forces him to expand the personal connection within his work.
Donnersmarck’s film may seem daunting given the three hour runtime, but the spacious narrative allows the writer/director to provide beautiful contemplative reflections on fate and humanity. It also enables emotional moments to swell organically through the cast of excellent performances; most notably with Cai Cohrs who plays young Kurt, Tom Schilling as adult Kurt, and Sebastian Koch who plays Ellie’s father who has a disturbing bond with his daughter’s beau that nether he or Kurt are aware of.
Never Look Away has rightfully earned itself two Oscar nominations at the 2019 Academy Awards – Best Cinematography and Best Foreign Language Film. While Roma’s wins may already be in the cards, Donnersmarck’s film is worthy competition. As for Canadians who are just receiving Donnersmarck’s feature now, Never Look Away will be the first masterpiece of the new year for them.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie