Flames. In the first seconds the film EGON SCHIELE – DEATH AND THE MAIDEN is on fire. Eyes, money, faces, limbs, all in golden light. Then suddenly a blue-black avalanche of coal hits the ground and we are in the cold reality of Vienna 1918, the final year of the first World War. Expressionist painter Egon Schiele (Noah Saavedra) needs coal, like any other human being, to kindle the fire that keeps him alive. The flames of his Spanish flu fever though are burning him up, and we see in a series of flashbacks from his deathbed how this beautiful, provocative, radical artist starts a promising career with successful exhibitions, the support of fellow artist Gustav Klimt (Cornelius Obonya, brilliant as ever) and the money of businessmen and art collectors like Carl Reininghaus.
There is much nudity in this film, albeit artful and more decent than in Schiele’s radical paintings. The film suggests he was inspired by Japanese erotic art and in one of the most heartwrenching scenes of the film we see one oil painting of Schiele’s burnt before the judge, who deemed it pornographic. A good thing then, that most of his nude paintings were kept in private, and that a certain mister Leopold dedicated his life and fortune to establishing the Stiftung Leopold, where Egon Schiele’s work gathers renown and value to this day. Now, almost 100 years after Schiele’s tragic death at only 28 years in 1918, the film EGON SCHIELE – TOD UND MÄDCHEN celebrates the exceptional artist with wonderful cinematography (Carsten Thiele gets to quite literally paint with light) under the direction of Dieter Berner. Every detail in the film is lovingly taken care of, every tiny role cast to perfection (for instance with Nina Proll as a Prater entertainer). So – when I found young actor Noah Saavedra’s passion as an enraged Egon Schiele in one scene to come across as somewhat pretentious – exactly this impression must have been the very intention of the team who made this perfect film possible. Kudos!