Passionate love affairs between exceptional artists might only be brief, but they are remembered for far longer. That was certainly the case with the stormy romance between pianist and composer Alma Mahler and painter Oskar Kokoschka, some 110 years ago in Vienna.
In his new film the Austrian-German director Dieter Berner continues to explore the public perception of the private lives of great artists, which he probed in his previous feature, ‘Egon Schiele: Death and the Maiden’ (also screening in this Festival).
We meet Alma Mahler (Emily Cox) on a tour of the United States with her husband, Gustav, who uses her as his assistant and represses her artistic ambitions. She admits that she has started an affair with the German architect Walter Gropius (Anton von Lucke). When the great composer dies shortly after the tour, the multi-talented and provocative artist Oskar Kokoschka (Valentin Postlmayr,) comes to their home to make a face-mask of Gustav for one of his many artistic projects.
The relationship blossoms when Alma hires Kokoschka to paint a portrait of her, leading to a passionate and volatile affair. There is much attention to detail that can be both seen and heard, such as the pristine production and costume design, captured beautifully in the seamless melange of analogue and digital cinematography, while the score by Stefan Will suitably relies on Gustav Mahler’s opuses. An enthralling historical biopic.