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TIFF 2021 Review: Charlotte – “The animation style mimics the aesthetic of her paintings”

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Despite the rising Nazi influence and persecution, German Jewish artist Charlotte Salomon creates a series of autobiographical paintings and in the process of doing so produces the first graphic novel.

Nazism is on the rise in Germany just as Charlotte Salomon decides to pursue a career as a painter but being Jewish and adopting an Expressionist style works against her ambition.   No one to give up Charlotte moves forward despite escalating political, social and family unrest.  Recognizing that her life might be shortened either by the systematic extermination that is taking place or by her family history of mental illness and suicides, the artist produces over 1000 pieces of artwork that collectively tell her story.

Check out all of our TIFF coverage
An A-list cast of Keira Knightley, Jim Broadbent, Sam Claflin, Henry Czerny, Eddie Marsan, Helen McCrory, Sophie Okonedo, and Mark Strong provide the voices.  Knightley infuses the protagonist with a spunkiness and determination that is admirable, Broadbent embodies a grumpy grandfather crippled by devastating family history and Strong believably conveys a smitten mentor.

A clever homage to the work of Charlotte Salomon is to have the animation style mimic the aesthetic of her paintings.  In showcasing, the artistic process there are dynamic sequences where the drawings are transformed into final works of art.  The coming of age story verges on melodrama but the emotional strength of Charlotte prevents this from happening.    It is interesting an idea to have actual documentary footage for the epilogue which emphasizes that the caricatures represent real human beings.  However, the plot is predictable, especially in the area of romance which undermines the devastating conclusion which occurs off-camera.

The 46th Toronto International Film Festival runs September 9-18, 2021, and for more information visit tiff.net.    

Trevor Hogg is a freelance video editor and writer who currently resides in Canada; he can be found at LinkedIn.

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