A long awaited story of events which occurred over 75 years ago. This film adaption of the book deserves several awards. It was a difficult story to tell in retrospect with well known actors willing to sacrifice themselves without the glamour most WWII movies display.
The evens occurred during the end of the Second World War, which most younger ones seem to suspect is part of the folk stories their grandparents believe in. Others actually had grandfathers who fought in some aspect or grandmothers who were involved in some fashion in the lives of those who wanted the world to be a better place.
The contemporary actors used for the film helped cover a time period now known as a "time piece" in theater which comes along with great costumes. These actors seem to enliven the pages of the book in their efforts to show the events in their best light.
The film followed closely on the book which was written long after the works of art which the group were sent to rescue occurred. Many of the pieces of art were returned without cost to their owners, church's, public buildings, museums and some private collectors.
Many pieces were still on the market long after the events due to the long time thievery which goes on during any war, but especially during this particular war were one ethnic race was discriminated in and others were simply convenient in their ownership of master works.
Once these types of masterpieces flooded the market with the idea of being the 'REAL" thing compared to a supposed forgery hanging in the galleries of museums. Auction houses came under attack in the seventies for accepting these types of missing art, and some families never got their works back.
The real story was of the men who chose to leave their own comfortable lives, after it was discovered there was a mass theft involving the entire European art world under the control of the Nazi's. Looting is common, but purposely defiling homes and robbing museums under their control was outrageous.
There was also serious damage from bombings and explosives as the sore losers pulled out of the area under their control as they lost the war the had raged against the world. The film shows more of the end results of the desire of the Nazi's to own and control the culture of the Western World as they arrive in Europe in new uniforms without the acceptance of many officers who saw little value in protecting old pieces of art.
The film explains how these men arrived with their commission and how they carried it out, a small band of about 8 men, from the various art world, architects and curators. The concern they showed amazed the politicians who appeared to forget why the war had begun, and how it would look if they lost everything. As it was, there were many cities which could not be rebuilt as they once were, leaving much of Europe in disarray for decades.
The brilliant depiction of a group of dedicated men who chose to risk their lives for the very items that both the common people had attempted to protect such as the priests as well as the higher officers who were taking advantage of the time period to provide themselves with the luxury of these fine pieces which had originally been created for royalty and the Church itself, is worth the effort to get through the lines to see the movie, as most of the viewers are old enough to remember the stories of the looting.
The book was at first not believed when many wanted to believe in the honesty of any military. Then the many paintings which were brought forward as fakes brought reality home. As the film shows there was still some disbelief of the value of these masterpieces, but most of the intellectual thought which occurred after the second world war rose out of these very same pieces as well as the many students forced to take at least one art history course would be without much of the understanding only obtained through the examination of the masters of old.
Much has been learned and appreciated from these works of art rescued for the the Nazis who were either hiding them away from others to view, or destroyed as seen in the film of the modern works of art which were condemened by Hitler. Myths of "farmhouses" with walls lined with famous masters is examined here, as is the idea that some high ranking officers might have escaped with a few masters under their arms to refinance their lives in places such as South America.
What is the value of a work of art, the idea of its being a masterpiece, the amount of money it costs, who is willing to die for it or simply the beauty of viewing it with a grandson years after its rescue? The importance of art is still as fragile as the government which protects it, as well as the strength of the academics which makes its value worth the time of studying and contemplating things of beauty regardless of whether or not one received an A- or a F+.