Today I had the opportunity to visit for the first time the Yuchengco Museum, it was a random trip spurred because of a seminar on Philippine-American relations, which I believe would be of great help to me when I start teaching come the end of this month. But it wasn’t the seminar that made the trip interesting, it was the portraits, paintings and pieces of art that drew me into deep thinking. While I observed and appreciated the works of Luna, Amorsolo, BenCab, Navarro, Joya and a whole others, I began thinking about a movie trailer I had watched and subsequently downloaded earlier this morning. It was a powerful movie that pulled my emotional strings and with a film starring Helen Mirren, I was no doubt sure that my eyes or my whole state would be quivering with emotion. Besides the film it was also the paintings and the whole atmosphere of the museum that got me thinking again “what would have happened if these paintings were in the hands of another country?” And that is basically the premise of the film Woman in Gold.
Art and its restitution, especially after the end of World War II is a particularly touchy subject for many countries, especially those who were aligned or are the Axis Powers. Our country to suffered immeasurable cultural and artifactual losses during World War II, though not enough evidence has popped up to bring the matter to light. However in Europe, where the film takes place in (including America), brings to light the problems and legal implications of the restitution of art. Documentaries and films have been produced to highlight the ongoing struggle of many Jewish families 70 years after the end of Nazi rule and still problems persist. In the case of Simon Curtis’s film, an adaptation of the true-to-life struggles of Maria Altman and her quest to return works of art that not only belongs to her but to her family.
Woman in Gold explores moral questions and sensitive topics that still exist today. It broaches on the idea that history can be revised to make it appealing and swallowable at the cost of someone’s life or their family. In this case, Helen Mirren brings Maria Altman’s story to life, her struggles and the way she would like to seek justice for the hurt, humiliation and persecution brought about by the Nazi’s many years ago. The film is moving and every moment of it is filled with tension as Maria along with Randy (played by Ryan Reynolds) weaves their way in and out of both American and Austrian legal systems.
The film is a beautiful story and one that really draws and tugs at one’s emotions. One cannot help but feel the struggle and connect with how art speaks volumes of emotions and histories. For those disappointed with the way Monument’s Men turned out, maybe this modern retelling would be a better substitute.