22 December 2010 | tigerfish50
Art Illuminates Life
"A Year Ago In Winter" opens with a grieving mother commissioning a double portrait of her two children - a dance student daughter and a recently deceased son. She informs the artist that the son had died in a hunting accident - but he soon discovers it was a suicide, and also learns the daughter is hostile to the portrait project. The painter lives alone in his large studio - estranged from both his ex-wife and son, and dealing with grief of his own following the death of a close friend. The film focuses on how the relationship between the painter and the young ballerina develops from mutual antipathy, and gives them the motivation to confront the mystery of the brother's suicide.
It's rare to see the life and working methods of an artist portrayed so authentically, and even more unusual to observe quality artwork integrated so organically into a film. "A Year Ago in Winter" is a subtitled human drama so it's unlikely that it'll have much mass appeal outside Germany. This is unfortunate since the film's excellent performances, cinematography and screenplay depict an unusual and intriguing relationship. Even if it remains obscure, it's still a gem.