Paul Silberstein, youngest son of an urbane but deeply strange old Austrian dynasty of confectionery millionaires, discovers the power of love and humor - and also his own extraordinary ability to shape his realities.
Paul Silberstein, youngest son of an urbane but deeply strange old Austrian dynasty of confectionery millionaires, has been furnished by nature with a stunning imagination as well as this difficult legacy. In the Austria of the late 1950s he discovers the power of love and humor - and also his own extraordinary ability to shape his realities.
Oh, the almost unbearable beauty of being an artist
This film is an adaptation of a novel written by Austrian visual artist André Heller and apparently based on his own childhood experiences in the late 1950s.
The protagonist, twelve-year old Paul Silberstein, has a despotic father whom he hates and a beautiful suffering mother whom he loves madly - business as usual. As his family is rich, young Silberstein goes to boarding school where more suffering is caused by the rigid catholic atmosphere. Alas, the young boy is highly artistic, creative and able to out-smart his father as well as his teachers. He falls in love with a girl, but only from afar and his life takes an upward turn towards a bright future when his morphine-addicted father eventually dies. Finally, Paul can waltz with his mother on the terrace of their luxurious mansion.
Until we reach this point, however, more than two very foreseeable hours have to be endured. It's really not the mostly very good actors' fault that the film itself feels somehow like the never-ending suffering of Paul Silberstein's life. It's the fact that this film is so much in love with itself and its subject, André Heller, who seems to be very much enamoured by himself too. It becomes harder and harder to not become cynical considering the endless and rather naïve praises of creativity, artistic life and true human nearness - especially when expressed by the protagonist doing an inexhaustible and wisecracking voice-over, commenting and evaluating arrogantly all that surrounds him. Worse, Heller and his alter ego Silberstein, have been born wealthy and are therefore in the quite comfortable situation to actually fulfill their dreams without caring too much about survival. Admittedly, not every rich person has this ambition in the first place, but, more importantly, many poor people can't afford to have it. Unfortunately, that's exactly the feeling caused by this film. Ironically, the fact that it obviously has been produced with a lot of money only adds to this film's general hubris.
Here, less would definitely have been more, in every way. The settings are great, so is the camera, and many of the boy's adventures during this fateful year on his way to become the visual artist (acclaimed not only by Mr. Heller himself) could be charming or at least entertaining. But the film-makers, you can almost sense it in the creativity that they force upon their audience as if to make a point and celebrate creativity itself, throw in everything and lose their way in the story. What starts as a history of a child turns eventually into a memento mori on anti-semitism.
In short: it's a mess - beautiful but very annoying.
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