The Great Museum

"Excellent"

The Great Museum Review


A fly-on-the-wall documentary about the backstage workings of an Austrian museum doesn't sound very exciting, but this film is a gift to any art lover. Packed with gorgeous artwork and fascinating people, it gently explores the passion and tenacity of museum staff from the director to the cleaner. And watching them work is surprisingly riveting, especially as they assemble a priceless collection that has been out of view for a decade.

Vienna's Kunsthistorisches Museum is the home of Austria's national treasures, a wealth of paintings, artefacts, clothing and jewellery by the finest artists throughout history. And the staff has a huge project underway, rebuilding the Kunstkammer, a collection of exquisite pieces that have been stored in the cavernous basement while the building was being renovated. Marketing teams debate advertising concepts and plan for the grand opening in the presence of the country's president. Restoration experts touch up paintings, repair mechanisms and polish precious metals. Builders lay flooring and electric wiring. Workers move paintings and items with painstaking care. All as the big day inexorably approaches.

Without any voiceover narration or on-screen titles, director Johannes Holzhausen simply observes these people at work, including hilarious moments of decision-making (director Paul Frey can't stand how a 3 looks in the font used for an advert). These conversations are caught almost accidentally, as restorers debate how to fix a damaged canvas or swear quietly to themselves when something goes wrong. And by observing these various people at work, a larger image of the museum staff as a single unit begins to come into focus. It may be rather dry, with no background music and little in the way of dominant characters, but there's a driving pulse to the film as everyone works together to get the Kunstkammer, a museum within the museum, ready for the opening ceremony.

There are all kinds of fascinating people along the way, including an archivist who rides a scooter through the labyrinthine corridors, a family donating their patriarch's vintage military uniform, guides being trained to meet the public, exterminators examining traps for signs of moths and even a visit to an auction house. Like the startlingly endless basement archives, these are sides of a museum we rarely get to see. And Holzhausen continually drops in moments of wit like dusting a naked statue or "operating" on a polar bear rug. So in the end it's impossible to watch this film without gaining respect for these dedicated people who spend so much time thinking about how to fix a work of art and display it for maximum impact.



Facts and Figures

Genre: Documentaries

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

Cast & Crew

Director: Johannes Holzhausen

Producer: Johannes Rosenberger

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

Contactmusic 2017 Exclusive

New Movies

Beauty And The Beast Movie Review

Beauty And The Beast Movie Review

This remake of Disney's 1991 classic is remarkably faithful, using present-day digital animation effects to...

The Salesman Movie Review

The Salesman Movie Review

Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi won his second Oscar with this astute drama which, like 2011's...

Get Out Movie Review

Get Out Movie Review

Leave it to a comedian to make one of the scariest movies in recent memory....

Personal Shopper Movie Review

Personal Shopper Movie Review

After winning a series of major awards for her role in Olivier Assayas' Clouds of...

Certain Women Movie Review

Certain Women Movie Review

In films like Wendy and Lucy and Meek's Cutoff, writer-director Kelly Reichardt has told sharply...

Kong: Skull Island Movie Review

Kong: Skull Island Movie Review

After the success of 2014's Godzilla reboot, the Warner Bros monsters get their own franchise,...

Viceroy's House Movie Review

Viceroy's House Movie Review

Filmmaker Gurinder Chada (Bend It Like Beckham) draws on her own family history to explore...

Advertisement
Trespass Against Us Movie Review

Trespass Against Us Movie Review

With an extra dose of attitude and energy, this Irish comedy-drama hits us like a...

Logan Movie Review

Logan Movie Review

Hugh Jackman returns to his signature role one last time (so he says), reuniting with...

Patriots Day Movie Review

Patriots Day Movie Review

The third time's a charm for Mark Wahlberg and director Peter Berg, who previously teamed...

A Cure for Wellness Movie Review

A Cure for Wellness Movie Review

It's no surprise that this creep-out horror thriller is packed with whizzy visual invention, since...

It's Only the End of the World Movie Review

It's Only the End of the World Movie Review

At just 27 years old, Canadian filmmaker Xavier Dolan has an almost overwhelming set of...

Hidden Figures Movie Review

Hidden Figures Movie Review

This film recounts such a great true story that we don't mind the fact that...

The Founder Movie Review

The Founder Movie Review

This is the story of Ray Kroc, the man who created the concept of McDonald's....

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.