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#TIFF21 Review: Charlotte (Special Presentations)

September 14, 2021

By John Corrado

★★★½ (out of 4)

Directed by Eric Warin and Tahir Rana, Charlotte is an animated biopic of German-Jewish artist Charlotte Salomon (voiced by Keira Knightley), whose magnum opus was a biography in pictures titled Life? Or Theatre? painted during World War II, that is often credited as being the first graphic novel.

The film focuses on the last decade of her life, and starts following Salomon as a sixteen year old in 1933, the same year the Nazis came into power. Born in Berlin to wealthy parents, she gets accepted into a prestigious art school despite being Jewish, but has her education cut short due to rising antisemitism and is eventually sent to live with her grandparents in the South of France.

The story captures the intensity of her short life, as she falls in love with World War I veteran Alfred Wolfsohn (Mark Strong), who is suffering from PTSD, and then again with a man named Alexander (Sam Claflin), while grappling with her family’s dark history of mental illness and the direct threat of Hitler’s violent regime.

The screenplay by Eric Rutherford and David Bezmozgis does a good job of condensing Salomon’s story into just under ninety minutes, with their script finding poignant emotional beats in the material. While this could have easily made for a live action period piece, animation is a fitting medium for this story, allowing the filmmakers to really pay tribute to Salomon’s work on a visual level.

Warin and Rana impressively use animation to tell a mature, often disturbing story, not just about the terrifying rise of antisemitism throughout the 1930s, but also about intergenerational trauma and the effects of mental illness upon a family. The film builds to a startling and haunting final scene. The result is a powerful animated biopic that engagingly recounts Salomon’s story, highlighted by some captivating visuals.

Public Screenings:

Monday, September 13th – 6:00 PM at VISA Screening Room at the Princess of Wales

Monday, September 13th – 9:00 PM at digital TIFF Bell Lightbox (Canada)

Monday, September 13th – 9:00 PM at Galaxy Cinemas Moose Jaw (Canadian Satellite Screening)

Friday, September 17th – 11:00 AM at TIFF Bell Lightbox

Friday, September 17th – 3:00 PM at digital TIFF Bell Lightbox (Canada)

The 2021 Toronto International Film Festival runs from September 9th to 18th.

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