Home for a few days at the end of the year, my wife and I are watching some movies and “chillaxing.” Namita recorded Woman in Gold off of one of the cable movie channels (HBO, I think), and we sat down to watch it. The film stars Helen Mirren and Ryan Reynolds, is based on a true story.
Maria Altmann, an octogenarian Jewish refugee, takes on the Austrian government to recover artwork she believes rightfully belongs to her family.
Helen Mirren portrays Maria Altmann, the woman who emigrated to the United States by fleeing her Austrian homeland during World War II, and leaving behind her beloved family and all possessions. After the death of her sister, Ms. Altmann becomes aware of the family artwork stolen by the Nazi’s during the invasion. This is not just any artwork, but multiple pieces from famed Austrian artist Gustav Klimt, including “Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer”. As Adele was Maria’s aunt, and the stunning piece has become “the Mona Lisa of Austria”, while hanging for decades in an Austrian gallery. Maria Altmann hires Reynold’s lawyer character (Randy Schoenberg) to help her fight to reclaim her family prized possession. They both go up against Austria seeking this small measure of restitution.
The film is interesting, as the film has flashbacks to Maria’s childhood and early life living in Austria including her wedding and early married life. The entire family (and the country) watch as the Third Reich marches closer to Austria, finally invades, and then witness firsthand the Austrian population turn against its Jewish citizens. I didn’t really care as much for the present-day portions, but found the flashbacks immensely interesting. You almost experience how their life changed, how the people around them changed, and the desperation to escape. Based on that, you understand why Maria Altmann was almost traumatized by the thought of stepping foot in Austria again, or why she wanted restitution. Why she wanted some small modicum of justice for the Austrian government aiding and abetting the Nazi regime in stealing her family’s possessions.