The Woman in Gold is an interesting movie based on a true story. A Jewish Austrian lady successfully reclaimed family art works looted by the Nazi.
Shortly after Maria Altmann’s (née Bloch – Bauer) wedding in 1937, Nazi carried out the Anschluss (annexation) in Austria. She fled Vienna, leaving her parents behind. Maria and her husband reached the USA and lived there as refugee.
After the death of her sister, Maria wanted to reclaim family paintings she inherited from her uncle. Nazi looted these from her house in Vienna. With the help of Randy Schoenberg, a young lawyer whose parents were also Jewish refugees from Austria and Austrian investigative journalist Hubertus Czernin, Maria started a lawsuit to reclaim the art works back from the Austrian government. Her attempt was to no avail.
However they discovered a small detail with big effect in the case. Maria filed the lawsuit again, this time in the USA under the Foreign Sovereign Immunity Act. The case made it to the Supreme Court which finally issued a verdict that Austrian government was to return all five paintings to Maria Altmann.
In March 2006 Austrian government returned all paintings to Maria in the USA. These are the five paintings in the story. All of them are paintings by famous Austrian painter, Gustav Klimt, one of my favourite painters. Maria’s uncle, the wealthy sugar magnate Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer, hired Klimt to paint portraits of his wife, Adele Bloch-Bauer (the first two paintings). The other landscape paintings were Ferdinand’s collection. The movie’s title is based of this golden portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer.
In the movie we see that Ferdinand gave the necklace Adele wore in the painting as a wedding gift to Maria. The real story goes that Nazi also looted this necklace and Herman Goering’s wife got this as present.
Adele Bloch – Bauer 1, 1907. This is one of my favourite paintings by Gustav Klimt beside The Kiss which was made in during the painter’s Golden Phase.
Adele Bloch – Bauer II, 1912
Both portraits ended in Top ten paintings in November 2007. In 2006 The Adele Bloch – Bauer II was sold for USD 136 million and Adele Bloch – Bauer I for USD 87,9 million during an auction in Christie’s. The buyer is Ronald Lauder (the son of Estée Lauder from that cosmetics brand). Lauder has exhibited both portraits in his gallery in New York ever since.
Unterach am Attersee, 1916
Back to the movie. As I stated above the movie is interesting because of the story. I am not really charmed by Ryan Reynold’s performance as the young lawyer Randy Schoenberg. On the contrary Dame Helen Mirren shines as always. Tatiana Maslany plays young Maria really well either. Antje Traue is perfectly casted as the mysterious, dreamy and beautiful Adele Bloch – Bauer. Katie Holmes has a small role as Schoenberg’s wife, her acting is so so.
The story is told by smoothly switching the present and the past. The flash backs to Vienna during Nazi occupation, Maria’s wedding in the house full of art works are finely shown. I am impressed to see the portraits hang in the room in the house. And the decor, the costume really bring that era to life. For these reasons only, this movie has become one of my favourites.
According to critics some details of the story are differently told than what were really happened. If you are interested in the real story of the woman in gold, then I suggest you to watch the documentary Stealing Klimt.
Maria Altmann’s case was one of the biggest lawsuits concerning the reclamation of artworks plundered by the Nazi during the war. Another high-profile case is the Goudstikker collection which covers more than 200 artworks.