Egon Schiele: Tod und Mädchen [Egon Schiele: Death and the Maiden] (2016)

Egon Schiele: Tod und Mädchen
Director: Dieter Berner
Writer: Hilde Berger, Dieter Berner
Cast: Noah Saavedra, Maresi Riegner, Valerie Pachner, Marie Jung, Larissa Breidbach, Elisabeth Umlauft, Thomas Schubert, Daniel Sträßer, Cornelius Obonya, Michael Kreihsl
Seen on: 7.11.2016

Egon Schiele (Noah Saavedra) and his sister Gerti (Maresi Riegner) are close and she supports him in his art, generally and by posing as a model for his paintings. But Gerti is not the only woman who inspired and supported Egon’s art. Next to Gerti, the most important is Wally (Valerie Pachner) who started out as a model for Gustav Klimt (Cornelius Obonya) and becomes Egon’s biggest love. His mostly nude or half-nude portraits of Wally and other women become a great provocation in Austrian society.

Egon Schiele: Tod und Mädchen is an interesting biopic that gives a good idea of Schiele’s (short) life and work and manages to entertain while it’s at it.

It’s weird how different my image of Schiele was compared to the version we got in the film here. It’s not that I’m a big Schiele scholar, but I had a rather clear idea of him as a sickly,introverted, reserved man with mental health issues. I can’t tell you were this image came from – maybe a dim recollection of his death paired with his paintings that – to me – always conjure up associations with ill-health, mentally and physically. Be that as it may, that is certainly not the Schiele of this film, who is a vivacious, extremely good-looking, womanizing jerk.

Maybe the womanizing also comes from the perspective chosen to tell the film: which is all about Schiele and the women in his life. Usually that’s a perspective reserved for biopics about women who always get portrayed in their relationships with men (and they rarely if ever have any female friends), and I thought the role reversal was interesting. Especially since it meant that while the center of attention was clearly Schiele himself, the women around him were also shown to be very important.

The cast was really good – above all Valerie Pachner as Wally. Obonya’s turn as Klimt is one of the more humorous looks at Klimt himself, which I appreciated. And Saavedra is so blindingly pretty, it’s hard not to be entranced by what he does on-screen.

A couple of things didn’t work so well for me. Moa (Larissa Breidbach) disappeared way too abruptly, especially since you never see people of color in Austrian films, particularly not in a historic setting and I greatly enjoyed her character. And I thought the film was a little too quick with dismissing the pedophilia charges against Schiele (which doesn’t mean I necessarily think they were warranted). Painting prepubescent girls naked is not just something that is normal practice, especially in an environment that tends to sexualize girls very early. But maybe I’m looking at this too much from today’s perspective.

But despite those weakness, the film is an entertaining look at an important artist and I definitely enjoyed it.

Summarizing: It’s good.

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