Never Look Away (film)

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Never Look Away
Never Look Away (film).jpg
Film poster
Directed byFlorian Henckel von Donnersmarck
Produced by
Written byFlorian Henckel von Donnersmarck
Music byMax Richter
CinematographyCaleb Deschanel
Edited byPatricia Rommel
Distributed by
Release date
  • 4 September 2018 (2018-09-04) (Venice)
  • 3 October 2018 (2018-10-03) (Germany)
Running time
188 minutes
Box office$1.4 million[1][2]

Never Look Away (German: Werk ohne Autor) is a 2018 German drama film directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck. It was selected to be screened in the main competition section of the 75th Venice International Film Festival.[3][4] It was also selected as the German entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 91st Academy Awards,[5] making the December shortlist.[6]


Inspired by the life of Gerhard Richter, the story follows art student Kurt Barnert in post-war East Germany. He falls in love with fellow student Ellie Seeband, but her father, Professor Carl Seeband, opposes their relationship. Complications arise as Carl’s role in the Nazi eugenics program becomes known.[7]

During a visit of the exhibition "Entartete Kunst" (degenerate art) in Dresden, five-year old Kurt gets told by his aunt Elisabeth to "never look away because everything that is true hold beauty in it". He will keep this advice close to his heart for the rest of his life, even when his aunt is taken away during Nazi times because she is suspected to be schizophrenic. While Kurt witnesses the bombing of Dresden during WWII, his aunt is first sterilized and later killed by the Nazis, and in particular by Prof. Carl Seeband, who is the chair of the Dresden women’s clinic and a member of the SS. After the war, Seeband is first arrested by the Russians but later released when he can save an officer’s wife while giving birth. Grateful for saving his wife and child, the Russian officer protects Seeband and the former Nazi is released. Meanwhile, Kurt Barnert begins to study painting at the Dresden art school where he meets Elizabeth Seeband who reminds him of his aunt, not knowing that she is the daughter of the SS doctor responsible for his aunt’s murder. He successfully continues his studies, but is forced to complete paintings that reflect social realism which is an ideology and field of art that he cannot come to terms with. Eventually, Kurt meets Elizabeth’s father, who has left his Nazi past behind and now follows the socialist ideology of East Germany. Kurt still does not know that Carl Seeband is responsible for his aunt’s death. Even though, Seeband does not approve of his daughter’s relationship with Kurt, he accepts it. When Elizabeth gets pregnant, Seeband lies and performs an abortion, to stop his daughter from mixing her genes with Kurt’s who he believes carries his aunt’s mental problems in his genes. However, Kurt and Elizabeth’s relationship becomes even stronger and eventually the two get married and eventually flee to Western Germany. Fearing prosecution after the Russian officer who got him released earlier is sent back to Moscow, Seeband and his wife, Elisabeth’s parents, had already left Eastern Germany. Kurt lies about his age in order to be admitted to the famous art academy in Dusseldorf where he can study and practice art more freely than in socialist Eastern Germany. His teacher realizes Barnert’s talent as an artist, but Kurt struggles to find his personal style. Inspired by a newspaper article about a captured Nazi doctor, he starts copying black-and-white photographs in his paintings. When Seeband sees a collage painting of Kurt’s aunt and the Nazi-doctor, he flees, even though the work is more of an accidental montage than a painting created to accuse Seeband of his Nazi past. After years of infertility due to the abortion her father performed on her, Elizabeth surprisingly becomes pregnant after all and Kurt earns success through the paintings in which he processes his childhood memories.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Never Look Away". Box Office Mojo. IMDb. Retrieved 8 October 2018.
  2. ^ "Werk ohne Autor". The Numbers. Retrieved 8 October 2018.
  3. ^ "Venice to Kick Off Awards Season With New Films From Coen Brothers, Luca Guadagnino and Alfonso Cuaron". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 25 July 2018.
  4. ^ "Venice Film Festival Lineup: Heavy on Award Hopefuls, Netflix and Star Power". Variety. Retrieved 25 July 2018.
  5. ^ Mitchell, Robert (30 August 2018). "Oscars: Germany Selects 'Never Look Away' as Foreign Language Entry". Variety. Retrieved 30 August 2018.
  6. ^ "Academy Unveils 2019 Oscar Shortlists". The Hollywood Reporter. 17 December 2018. Retrieved 18 December 2018.
  7. ^ Handling, Piers. "Never Look Away". Toronto International Film Festival. Retrieved 30 August 2018.

External links[edit]