This may be the best film about an artist I’ve ever seen, plus it’s a searing look at Nazi-era Germany and a charming love story. It also features six captivating (and attractive) actors who fill the screen and absorb our attention, none more than Tom Schilling, who radiates intelligence with his every look. Sebastian Koch, familiar from The Lives of Others, is almost as compelling in the more challenging role of the alpha villain. I didn’t watch this as a biography of Gerhard Richter, although of course I recognized Richter’s art in the paintings Barnert (Schilling) made and scenes he saw; so I am not judging the movie on that basis. It was simply a great movie on its own terms, with substance and style. When it ended I was sorry, and amazed that more than three hours had passed since its beginning.
*A note on the rating: I don’t believe I have given out a 9 since, maybe, Nashville, and it is time to adjust. I can save 9.5 and 10 for the perfect movie, if one ever comes. By bringing 9 into play I have more room to differentiate, without resorting to lots of fractions. I was finding that too many movies were falling between 7 and 8 to make my scale meaningful. Henceforth, 5 is a movie that leaves me cold but isn’t bad; 6 and 7 are movies that I’m glad I saw but have minor or major reservations about; 8 is a movie I can heartily recommend; and 9 is a landmark that holds up both while watching and afterward, a sure Top-Tenner for the year. The numbers below 5 reflect how much I disliked the experience.