Film Review: Never Look Away

Whilst the Academy Awards may claim to consider cinema from all around the world, in reality only English-language films usually get a look in outside of ‘best foreign language’ category. Back in 1983, Das Boot was nominated for six Oscars. Although perversely, not in the most obvious category. This year, Never Look Away became only the second German film to receive multiple nominations. Inspired by the life of Gerhard Richter, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s (The Life of Others) film is epic in every sense of the word.

As a young boy, Kurt Barnert witnesses his aunt (Saskia Rosendahl) being taken away by the Nazis for being ‘mentally unfit’. It is she who nurtured his interest in art. After the war, whilst studying painting at the Dresden art school, he (Tom Schilling) falls in love with Elizabeth Seeband (Paula Beer), a beautiful fashion student. Unbeknownst to Kurt, her father (Sebastian Koch), who is now an eminent gynaecologist, was responsible for her euthanasia.  

Whilst Never Look Away is a film about art, and more precisely the process of its creation, there’s a lot more going on under the surface. Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck uses it as a premise to psychoanalyse Germany over a period of decades spanning World War II. His conclusions will be difficult for some of his countrymen to accept. Never Look Away is a sumptuous and elegant drama. One which it’s breathtakingly ambitious and beautifully shot.

Never Look Away is out in cinemas from 5 July.

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