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Before I started recording my interview with Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck on January 14, 2019, we reminisced about the last time we had met. It was just before his film, THE LIVES OF OTHERS, had beaten Guillermo del Toro’s odd-on favorite for the Best Foreign Language Oscar™, PAN’S LABYRINTH. Once I hit record, the conversation turned to the thorny philosophical issues that his latest film, NEVER LOOK BACK, brings up. Donnersmarck has distilled the history of Germany from the 1930s through the 1960s into the life of an artist, loosely based on Gerhard Richter. In contemplating those troubling time, Donnersmarck does more than give us a history lesson about what happens when politics dictates art, he also ponders the nature of creativity, and what separates the merely talented from the truly genius. The result is a film that challenges its audience out of complacency with dreamlike images that are at once poetic and disturbing.
We started the conversation with why Donnersmarck wanted to tell this story through the life on one man before moving on to the magical powers of cinematographer Caleb Deschanel, why politeness matters in geopolitics, and the definition of justice.
The film stars Tom Schilling, Sebastian Koch, and Paula Beer. Donnersmarck directed from his own script, and his previous work includes the Oscar-winning THE LIVES OF OTHERS. NEVER LOOK AWAY is nominated for the 2019 Best Foreign Language Oscar.