Lighthouse Film Society Screens Epic German Film

'Never Look Away' Nominated for Academy Awards
By RICK MELLERUP | Sep 17, 2019

Loveladies — The Lighthouse International Film Society and the Long Beach Island Foundation for the Arts and Sciences are teaming up with Linda Ramsay Fine Artist and David Ramsay Cabinetmakers, Inc. to present the film “Never Look Away” at 7 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 20.

You might want to bring a seat cushion if you take in the movie, nominated for best cinematography and best foreign language film at the 91st Academy Awards. It runs over three hours – 188 minutes, to be exact. The 2018 film, with a director with a mouthful of a name – Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck – needs to be of epic length, considering it has been described as a “sweeping romantic historical drama,” “an exceptional German war film,” a “German coming-of-age romantic drama,” and “both unusual and compellingly ambitious, spanning three decades of German post-war history in a suspense-packed drama.” To boot, “Never Look Away” has been called “a gripping drama and moving family story inspired by real events, by what it means to create art, and by the search for an artistic voice of one’s own.” It is rated R because of “graphic nudity,” sexuality and brief violent images.”

Whew! That’s a lot of movie!

You may also want to do some homework before making your way to the Foundation, located at 120 Long Beach Blvd. in the Loveladies neighborhood of Long Beach Township. The movie is loosely based on the life and career of Gerhard Richter, 87, often described as one of the most important contemporary German artists, with several of his works selling at record prices at auction. Indeed, the master of abstract and, on the other end of the painting spectrum, photorealistic paintings with a distinctive blur, has sometimes been called the world’s “best living painter.”

The movie itself has been highly lauded as well. Ann Hornaday of the Washington Post wrote: “The title of ‘Never Look Away’ is deliciously ironic: This is one of the most mesmerizing, compulsively watchable films in theaters right now.” In Commentary magazine, John Podhoretz compared it to David Lean’s “Doctor Zhivago,” calling it “the rare movie you actually wish were longer, because it is so involving, heart-wrenching, and beautiful.”

Everything about “Never Look Away” is long. When it was first screened at the 75th Venice International Film Festival, it received a 13-minute standing ovation!

The film opens with its young Richter-inspired protagonist, Kurt Barnert, visiting the traveling exhibition “Entartete Kunst” (the Nazi-organized show of “Degenerate Art”) in Dresden, with his gorgeous and eccentric young aunt Elisabeth.

That scene sets up the rest of the movie in several ways. Barnert, like Richter, reaches maturity in Communist East Germany and as a young student and artist, he is forced to paint in the “socialist realism” mode. He eventually flees to West Germany where he develops his own style.

In the meantime, he falls in love with another Elizabeth, “Ellie” Seeband. Little does he know, Ellie’s father was once a gynecology professor and high-ranking member of the Nazi’s SS medical corps who sent his aunt away to be euthanized because she was suspected of being a schizophrenic. Professor Seeband has easily made the slide from Nazi to dedicated Communist.

So, “Never Look Away” is a deeply personal film about love and art while at the same time it explores the German people, some of whom embraced Hitler and Communism while others did, indeed, look away, trying to survive by blurring themselves in starkly rigid societies.

The LBI Foundation screening will be introduced by Ken Konchan, professor of history and ethics at the University of Akron, who specializes in Nazi Germany and the Holocaust. His talk will focus on “Degenerative Art” and Richter’s work.

Tickets are $5 (free for LIFS members and students). They may be purchased in advance at by clicking on “About” and “Film Society.”

— Rick Mellerup


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