Film: Heir, The / L’heritier (2017)

May 11, 2017 | By

Film: Excellent

Transfer:  n/a

Extras: n/a

Label:  n/a

Region: n/a

Released:  n/a

Genre:  Documentary / WWII / Art History

Synopsis: Director Edith Jorisch retraces the steps that led her grandfather to finding 3 missing paintings – 2 by Klimt – which disappeared after the Nazis entered Austria in 1939 and confiscated the art of wealthy Jewish families.

Special Features:  n/a




Edith Jorisch’s hour-long documentary draws from her family’s very personal story of her late grandfather’s quest to seek out three paintings he recalled from his childhood home in Austria, last seen in 1939 before the family’s children were sent to Belgium the day before the Nazis drove tanks into the country.

Although fairly brisk in pacing, Jorisch allows the story to breathe as she uses surviving family photos to recount her grandfather Georges’ journey from Belgium to Montreal in 1957, where they settled and he began a photo shop, inspiring his son and ultimately granddaughter to find careers in the visual and media arts.

The search for stolen art isn’t an unfamiliar quest for Jewish families who lost entire fortunes under the Nazis. From self-appointed to federally mandated appropriation of all valuables and business, the despicable reduction of important pillars of communities was widespread, but for Georges, the art included two works by Gustav Klimt (Church in Cassone, and Litzlberg on the Attersee), and a single work by Ferdinand Georg Waldmüller (Children on Their Way Home from School), of which the first two were displayed in a so-called red room, and the third hung over his mother’s bed.

Memories, Nazi mania for bureaucratic records, and art historians and forensic trackers ultimately led to a series of discoveries which director Jorisch retraces as she journeys to Austria and is re-shown the key clues to her family’s lives up to 1939. The Heir isn’t a stark statement about justice, but a delicate account of her grandfather’s gentle yet stern determination to find the truth, and achieve at least a moral victory in finding as much as possible, using his memories of the artworks and the few surviving clues that might prove ownership. What follows isn’t shocking, but Jorisch’s structure of the events leading up to Georges’ passing in 2012 builds to a touching climax, with the final event especially moving, giving her grandfather closure, reinstating the family’s roots in some measure in Salzburg, and furthering cultural endeavors in both Austria and Montreal.

Beautifully photographed on location in Austria, Italy, and Quebec, The Heir also captures the sensitivity shared by historians and legal representatives in handling the delicate search and negotiation processes between rightful heirs and current owners, some of which were captured on audiotape between the original figures, including her grandfather.

The Heir had its Toronto Premiere at the 2017 Toronto Jewish Film Festival, and was screened alongside Billsville.



© 2017 Mark R. Hasan



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Category: Blu-ray / DVD Film Review

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