Monday, October 30, 2017

(Film Review) Egon Schiele: Death and the Maiden (Egon Schiele: Tod und Machen)

Death and the Maiden, 1915-16

One of the most tragic figures in modern art was Egon Schiele, who died at the young age of 28 in 1918. His legacy and work is now celebrated all over the world. Schiele's work is known for highly erotic and provocative depictions of young women in various poses and positions. Schiele's work still has an edge that is admired to this very day. In the film "Egon Schiele: Tod und Machen" (Egon Schiele: Death and the Maiden) director and screenwriter Dieter Berner, along with screenwriter Hilde Berger, tells the story of Schiele (played by Noah Saavedra) during the last 10 years of his brief life. 

The film begins with a flashback of a childhood memory of Schiele's father burning the family bonds, stocks and other valuables during a fit madness caused by syphilis. The next scene has Schiele's sister Gerti Schiele (played by Maresi Riegner) waking Egon from beside the bed of his now dead wife Edith. Gerti brings him into the salon while Edith's sister retrieves the body of the deceased from the bedroom. The film then flashes back and forth between the eve of Schiele's death, and stories of Schiele's muses; Gerti, Moa (played by Larissa Breidbach) and finally Wally Neuzil (played by Valerie Pachner). Egon Schiele then covers the failed art collective in Krumau, the charges of indecency by Austrian law enforcement, and the intense relationship between Schiele and Wally as they go back to Vienna, Schiele's conscription into the army, and Egon and Wally’s eventual break-up and death. The chemistry between Savaadra's Schiele and his muses are strong. The viewer feels the bond between each other, and the film is outstanding at portraying their relationships.

The most important and compelling is Schiele's relationship with Wally. The film is excellent at portraying the devotion and love between them from the time they met at Gustave Klimt’s studio, and during their tumultuous relationship. Pacher’s portrayal of Wally is credible as she brings out the power and eroticism that eventually makes Schiele’s work memorable. The only problem is the break-up with Wally and eventual nuptial with Edith. The break-up with Wally and the marriage with Edith seemed too sudden. There was not enough of a development between Egon and Edith's relationship that it seemed too spontaneous to be credible, especially given the intensity of the relationship between Wally and Egon. 

Regarding the art of Schiele as it is depicted in the movie, the viewer senses passion and the sexual nature of Schiele's practice. Schiele would use models posing in erotic and contorted poses. The film is successful in bringing this process to life. Egon Schiele takes you to the time of fin de si├Ęcle Vienna, and thus gives you a trustworthy experience of that moment between beauty and collapse. It is illustrated by Gerti's struggle to get Schiele some medication, Gerti sells her wedding ring, and goes about town trying to barter for medication. At the moment when Gerti returns with medication, Schiele is found dead; a victim of Spanish influenza which costs the lives of 20 million people between 1915 to 1920. Egon Schiele was dead at the age of 28 years old.    

Director and screenwriter Dieter Berner’s Egon Schiele is a movie made for the artist and the art lover. It is effective by taking the viewer to a world that only 100 years existed. To end this review, when Schiele received the news of Wally's death at the time of the opening of his solo show at Secession in Vienna, he changed the title of a portrait of him and Wally from "Man and the Woman" to "Death and the Maiden." With Wally's death, a part of his raison d'etre died with her. Egon Schiele: Death and the Maiden is a very good movie for those that want to see the collision  passion, love, the erotic, and art coalesce. Along with other movies about artists such as Pollock, and Basquiat, Egon Schiele: Death and the Maiden, belongs in your library.  

Self Portrait with Physalis, 1912

Seated woman with bent knee, 1917

Walburga Neuzil in black stockings, 1913
Portrait of Wally, 1912

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