The funny thing about portraits is that, eventually, if they aren’t of someone famous, you forget that they portray actual people. That someone real once stood before the artist as they painted, probably for hours. What are their stories? And the stories of their families? How did they relate to the portraits?
Meet Adele Bloch-Bauer. Her portrait was commissioned by her husband, Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer. It took 3 years to complete. Sixteen years later, she passed away. After the Nazis invaded Austria during World War II, they stole this and other property from her family, who were Jewish. Many in her family managed to escape. The portrait was taken to the Belvedere. Right before Bloch-Bauer died, he willed his estate to his nieces and nephews, which included the stolen paintings.
In 1998, Maria Altman, niece to the Bloch-Bauers, approached the son of a family friend, who also happened to be a lawyer. She asked him to help her reclaim the portrait of her aunt.
Maria and her lawyer, E. Randol Schoenberg, filed a suit with the Art Restitution Commission about the painting. However, over the years, the portrait had become “the Mona Lisa of Austria” as one characters puts it. Not surprisingly, the Commission determines that the art will stay in Austria.
What happens next is the basis for Woman In Gold. I won’t say more, although this is the kind of movie that you go into knowing how it will end. That in no way detracts from the film. Helen Mirren and Ryan Reynolds are thoroughly enjoyable as the main characters. More importantly, it portrays a different part of the atrocities of the Holocaust and how some people continue trying to get justice for the horrors they lived through.