Gustav Klimt was a fascinating character. At a time when all modern art was going through one of the greatest transformations in history Klimt was slightly dislocated, or better said located at the wrong place. The elegant city of Vienna was living its last decades as the capital of the Austro-Hungarian empire, and as much as it has been a center of music and refinement for the previous 150 years, it never was the home of great creation in plastic arts. The revolution was taking place in Paris, with strong resonance in the Netherlands, in Germany and even in Scandinavia. Vienna was adopting a more refined and processed version of the revolution and the art created here was still more targeting to please rather than scandalize les bourgeois.




It is not very clear to me what director Raul Ruiz intended to show in this film. It does not seem to be about the artist Klimt, as we get very little feeling about what his art was about, where it came from, how it related to his character or with his environment. We are not even very clear about the character Klimt – we see him involved with a lot of women, trying to be a charmer just to fall under the charms (and mirror games) of the wrong woman (or maybe more than one). We get a mosaic image of the Vienna and Paris before the war, seen from the perspective of the dying Klimt and of his friend Schiele (Nikolai Kimski is excellent) – but overall the exercise seems to be pretentious and empty of content.


(video source AntoinedeLuna)


Or maybe it was about giving John Malkovich the opportunity to make another great role. He did not need it, and actually for the first time I felt the great actor to be a little bit tired. It was more 20 years after playing another big Austrian artist, and the reason was not only the age.