Opening 17 Nov 2016
This film deals with the Austrian painter Egon Schiele’s relationships to the women who posed for his provocative and highly erotic paintings at the beginning of the twentieth century. The movie is based on Hilde Berger’s novel entitled Tod und Mädchen: Egon Schiele and depicts Schiele (Saavedra) as a charming young man who is completely obsessed with painting and unconcerned with contemporary sexual taboos. One of the most important women in Schiele’s life, who also serves as his first nude model, is his younger sister Gerti (Riegner). His relationship to her is shown as being warm, slightly incestuous, and possessive. Gerti enjoys her role as a model and jealously guards her brother’s relationships to other models. She remains loyal to him throughout his life and even nurses him during the last days before his tragic death at the age of 28.
The second key female figure in Schiele’s life is Wally (Pachner), first introduced to him as a young girl by Gustav Klimt. They soon become lovers and form perhaps the closest relationship Schiele had with a woman other than his sister. It is Wally who is depicted in the painting Death and the Maiden that marked Schiele’s rise to success as a painter in Vienna in 1917. Like Gerti, Wally, too, is fiercely loyal to Schiele and even saves him from imprisonment by testifying in his favor when he is arrested for engaging children as nude models. But Schiele’s own loyalty is primarily toward himself and his painting. When he is drafted for military service, he decides to marry his bourgeois neighbor’s daughter Edith in hopes of obtaining privileges that would allow him to continue to paint. Edith, too, serves as a model but refuses to allow Schiele to depict her face. Wally is devastated by the marriage. She signs on as a nurse in military service and dies of scarlet fever shortly afterwards. Schiele’s success is also short-lived. He and his wife contract Spanish fever and die in 1918.
This film presents a fascinating biographical story as well as an interesting historical perspective on life in Austria and Vienna at the beginning of the twentieth century. The actors and actresses are refreshing young newcomers to film. However, following the dialogue is a challenge for non-native speakers since the actors speak with an Austrian accent and there are no subtitles. (Pat Nevers)