The Woman in Gold

Posted on March 31, 2015 at 5:58 pm

Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for some thematic elements and brief strong language
Profanity: Brief strong language including anti-Semitic epithets
Alcohol/ Drugs: None
Violence/ Scariness: WWII-era peril and violence
Diversity Issues: A theme of the movie
Date Released to Theaters: April 1, 2015
Date Released to DVD: July 6, 2015 ASIN: B00VU4YO7K

WOMAN IN GOLDThe very title is a form of theft. When Gustav Klimt painted the portrait that gives this film its name, he called it “Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer.” She was a warm, vibrant young woman who was a vital part of the extraordinary period of intellectual and cultural life in Vienna known as the Sacred Spring era. Adele Bloch-Bauer died in 1925, and the portrait hung in a place of honor in the apartment her husband shared with his brother, sister-in-law, and two young nieces.

And then the Nazis invaded Germany, their atrocities included stealing the valuables of the Jews they were sending to concentration camps. They took the portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer and hung it in a place of honor, after they renamed it to remove identity of the subject and the Jewish association of her name. “Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer” became the anonymous “The Woman in Gold.” The beautiful choker necklace she wore in the painting was also stolen and given to the wife of Nazi officer Hermann Goering.

More than half a century later, Maria Altmann, the niece of Adele Bloch-Bauer, asked the grandson of her old friend from Vienna if he could help her get the painting back. This film is the story of the painting, the lawsuit, and Maria’s indomitable spirit.

Dame Helen Mirren is radiant as Maria, witty, spirited, an irresistible force who cannot give up. While we never doubt for a moment that she will prevail, Mirren makes us want to watch it all unfold. It is an extremely difficult case, with many arcane legal details, and the real-life story, like all real-life stories, is more complicated and controversial than any movie can convey. Director Simon Curtis (“My Week with Marilyn”) and first-time screenwriter Alexi Kaye Campbell keep the focus on the odd-couple relationship between Maria and the young lawyer (Ryan Reynolds), with flashbacks to show us Maria’s relationship with her Aunt Adele, and then her wedding to a handsome opera singer, just as the Germans are about to invade. Tatiana Maslany (“Orphan Black”) is lovely as the young Maria, and makes us believe she could grow up to become Helen Mirren.

The portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer now hangs in the Neue Galerie. And now this movie is a part of its story, putting Adele back into the picture and giving us a portrait of the niece who insisted that her story be told.

Parents should know that this film includes WWII-era peril and violence, with references to concentration camps and genocide. There is brief strong language including anti-Semitic epithets.

Family discussion: Why did Maria refuse Ronald Lauder’s offer to get her more experienced lawyers? What was the most important discovery in winning the case?

If you like this, try: the documentary about Nazi art theft, “The Rape of Europa” and learn more about the lawsuit and read up on the real story

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