Recently, and at last, I have watched the film “Woman in Gold”. I had been put off by comments about bogus accents and poor, over-worked story line. But, for me, it was a really moving presentation of something that really happened. No doubt there were embellishments for entertainment’s sake. The development of the story and flash-backs to that dreadful time when Jewish people were hounded, robbed and murdered for reasons that were, and are, incomprehensible, were portrayed sensitively. The film music and the excerpt from Schoenberg’s ‘VERKLARTE NACHT, OP. 4’ were redolent with Jewish minor key melody.
I was intrigued by the legal wrangling (motivated by money as much as national pride) that eventually allowed Maria Altmann possession of the Klimt paintings that belonged to her family before the Second World War. I recollect that there was another film made recently that dealt with the immense number of works of Art that the Nazi’s accumulated during their occupation of Europe [Monument’s Men].
Klimt with cat.
Otto Klimt painted the five pictures whose ownership was contested by Maria Altmann
There was a clear Jewish emphasis in “Woman in Gold” but, also the question of moral “rightness” that extends to all of us. Does something become our property by right, simply because we have “owned it” for fifty years? We might consider the fact that the painting of Adele Bloch-Bauer was owned by the Altmann family and it was stolen from them. Surely this was enough to demand negotiation. Reasons for sticking to one’s guns were matters like, “We give in now – where will it end?” and “This might cause an international incident!”
Perhaps, there was a hidden message about Jewish occupation of the land now called “Israel”? They can demonstrate a prior claim that only the (extinct?) Canaanites can contest. Or, maybe, Palestinians (Samaritans?) can claim that they occupied an abandoned land in the 6th Century BC?
I am left seeing again the blessed existence of negotiation – even compromise. Maybe, I have justice, rightness – even my version of the Truth on my side. Maybe, I have the authority of God’s Word. Does this give me permission to coerce, commandeer or cut off others? The Austrian Art Gallery directors had obtained the Klimt paintings only because the Nazis considered them “decadent”. Knowing how they obtained them should, surely, have encouraged compassion and negotiation?
God calls us to reason with him. He offers peace, forgiveness and eternal love. Will I continue to resist and claim that my life is my own and insist on my rights?