Woman in Gold is a major British-American drama directed by Simon Curtis (My Week with Marilyn), scripted by award-winner Alexi Kaye Campbell, starring Helen Mirren and Ryan Reynolds.
It’s based on the fascinating true story of Maria Altmann (Mirren), an elderly Jewish refugee in Los Angeles who fights the government of Austria to reclaim Gustav Klimt’s iconic painting of her aunt, Adele Bloch-Bauer, stolen by the Nazis from her relatives in Vienna just prior to the Second World War and later displayed in the Austrian State Gallery.
Altmann constantly relives the arrival of Nazi forces in Vienna, the suppression of Jewish ideology, and the looting and pillage by the Nazis against Jewish families.
Altmann and her family had attempted to flee to the U.S., but while Altmann succeeded, her parents were killed in the death camps.
When the elderly Altmann attends her sister’s funeral, she discovers letters revealing an attempt to recover artwork that had been stolen by the Nazis.
Of particular note is Klimt’s painting of Altmann’s aunt, known in Austria as the Woman in Gold, and described as “Vienna’s Mona Lisa.”
Altmann is helped by lawyer Randol Schoenberg (Reynolds), to make a claim at the art restitution board in Vienna. But the country’s minister and art director won’t part with the painting, which has become part of the national identity, and supplies false information that the family legitimately willed the painting to the gallery.
But the will only left the painting to the gallery provided there were no surviving relatives. Based on this evidence, Schoenberg files the claim, but is denied by the restitution board.
Schoenberg discovers a legal loophole, and takes the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. But although he wins against the Austrian government, he falls out with Altmann, and she and Schoenberg now have to act separately against the Austrian government, who still want to keep the painting.
The painting (plus four others from Klimt’s golden phase) were estimated to be collectively worth at least $150 million. In monetary terms this represented the largest single collection of Nazi-looted art in Austria.
The Woman and Gold screens at the Vernon Towne Cinema starting Friday, April 24, with weekend matinees and daily evening shows, except on Monday, April 27.