Review by Amanda Gilmore
This heartbreaking animated feature tells the remarkable true story of Charlotte Salomon (voiced by Keira Knightley), a young German-Jewish artist who painted a masterpiece she titled Life? or Theatre? during World War II.
What makes Charlotte stand out is it’s a World War II story centred on the life of an individual and her artistic work. Screenwriters Erik Rutherford and David Bezmozgis follow Charlotte over the course of 10 years, from the time she was 16, experiencing the rise of Nazi Germany, to 26, when she died in Auschwitz. In doing so, they have shown one woman’s heartbreaking story that also depicts living during this time. She was refused her education, had to flee Germany and lost those she loved. Along the way, we are taken on Charlotte’s discovery of her family’s history and the impact it had on her decision to paint Life? or Theatre?.
All of this is brought to life with beautiful animation from Canadian filmmakers Eric Warin and Tahir Rana. They make the strong decision to show Charlotte’s life as an animated feature. In doing so, they are able to show her work and depict her short life in a similar art form to the one she loved. Additionally, the choice of animation results in this Film being a World War II story accessible to children. There are some scenes that skew more to adult viewing, but overall, there is a lot to learn from Charlotte for children and adults alike.
Knightley brings Charlotte’s compassion and determination in her voice work for the English version (Marion Cotillard voices the French version). They are joined by a star-studded cast consisting of Brenda Blethyn, Jim Broadbent, Sam Claflin, Henry Czerny, Eddie Marsan, Helen McCrory, Sophie Okonedo and Mark Strong.
Overall, Charlotte is a beautifully animated feature that tells the heartbreaking story of its subject. It depicts Charlotte’s talent, resilience, determination and compassion while being a study on familial mental health and living during World War II.
Charlotte screens at TIFF ’21:
Mon, Sep 13 at Princess of Wales at 6 pm
Mon, Sep 13 on the digital TIFF Bell Lightbox at 9 pm
Mon, Sep 13 for its Canadian Satellite Screening at Galaxy Cinemas Moose Jaw at 9 pm
Fri, Sep 17 at TIFF Bell Lightbox at 11 am
Fri, Sep 17 on the digital TIFF Bell Lightbox at 3 pm
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