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

New Movies

Churchill Movie Review

Churchill Movie Review

This drama about the iconic British prime minister tells a darkly personal story set over...

Gifted Movie Review

Gifted Movie Review

This is one of those films that dances right up to the edge of soapy...

Whitney: Can I Be Me Movie Review

Whitney: Can I Be Me Movie Review

Notorious British filmmaker Nick Broomfield teams up with Austrian music documentary producer Rudi Dolezal to...

The Mummy Movie Review

The Mummy Movie Review

To launch their new Dark Universe franchise, Universal has taken an approach that mixes murky...

My Cousin Rachel Movie Review

My Cousin Rachel Movie Review

Daphne du Maurier's 1951 mystery-romance novel has been adapted for theatre, radio, TV and film,...

Wilson Movie Review

Wilson Movie Review

It's never helpful when a comedy becomes a bit too smug about its own quirkiness....

Interlude in Prague Movie Review

Interlude in Prague Movie Review

A fictionalised story from the life of Wolfgang Mozart, this lavishly produced period drama is...

Advertisement
The Hippopotamus Movie Review

The Hippopotamus Movie Review

This British satirical comedy may be a bit of a mess, but since it's based...

Detour Movie Review

Detour Movie Review

This may look like a rather typical American indie thriller, but British filmmaker Christopher Smith...

Wonder Woman Movie Review

Wonder Woman Movie Review

Boldly optimistic, this action-packed adventure breathes fresh life into the DC universe with a welcome...

Baywatch Movie Review

Baywatch Movie Review

Clearly, it's a risky proposition adapting a cheesy vintage TV series for the big screen:...

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales Movie Review

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales Movie Review

Subtitled Salazar's Revenge in the UK, this fifth film in the long-running series never quite...

Colossal Movie Review

Colossal Movie Review

It's rare to find a movie that so defiantly refuses to be put into a...

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword Movie Review

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword Movie Review

It's unlikely that Guy Ritchie could make a boring movie if he wanted to. This...

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.