Despite being quite a popular and well established genre, biographical films about artists succeed quite seldom to become consistent works of art by themselves. In many cases they deal with personalities whose art and biographies are reasonably or well known to the audiences. The personalities of the artists, the environment they lived within, their relations with the society and the personal lives, in some cases controversial are good material, but the script writers, directors and actors have to match their cinematic work with the expectations, have to bring enough new elements to make the films interesting and above all have a formidable competitor for their films in the art created by the heroes of their stories. Austrian director ‘s tentative with “Egon Schiele: Death and the Maiden” (or “Egon Schiele: Tod und Mädchen” in German) is a good exemplification of a diligent tentative that does not succeed to avoid all the traps and surface above the crowd.

 

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4558396

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4558396

 

Egon Schiele was one of the lead artists in the period of art flourishing at the beginning of the 20th century in Austria. While post-Impressionism, Fauvism and Cubism was changing in a revolutionary manner the history of art in France, and while German artists were building the foundations of Expressionism and Abstract art, their Austrian colleagues of generation were shattering the bourgeois establishment with a more subtle and subversive approach. Certainly, the works of Klimt and Schiele were defining new aesthetic codes, but their attack on the conservative art was coming mostly on the moral grounds. In the decadent atmosphere of the end of the empire, they were living a free and amoral life according to the codes of their time, and this was reflected openly in their art. Egon Klimt, whose last eight years of his short life are described in the film, lived in a passionate but also deeply anxious manner. Had death not cut short his life (he died in the terrible flu epidemic in the last month of the war) he may have joined the expressionist current, and maybe become a great anti-war artist such as Otto Dix.

 

(video source Thimfilm Filmverleih)

 

Unfortunately, little of the torments of the artist are translated to screen in “Egon Schiele: Death and the Maiden“. We are served with a quite documented biographical film, which is as much as I can judge close and true to the facts that we know about his life. The focus of the script and of the film director was directed to the historical details and the sentimental life of the painter. There is too little in the film that can explain the psychological shock that one feels when looking at the paintings and drawings of Schiele, the deep mute shout that comes from the lines, the forms, the expressions of the people (mostly women) that he painted. The team of artists (, , ) is very well selected, and their acting reveals a little more than the script does, but this is still enough. Director succeeded to make a rather conventional film about a provoking artist.