Review by Sean Boelman
The feature debut of German filmmaker Halina Dyrschka, Beyond the Visible - Hilma af Klint offers a compelling biography of the revolutionary artist. A captivatingly-shot movie with an extraordinary subject, the film may be weighed down by an obligation to the conventions of the genre, but it is an interesting watch nevertheless.
The movie presents a look at the life and career of Hilma af Klint, who is considered by many to be the mother of abstract art. Influencing such iconic artists as Andy Warhol, it’s shocking that af Klint isn’t a household name, but rather, a legendary creator that is known primarily within the circles of the art world.
However, Dyrschka’s film will undoubtedly do a very good job of fixing that. Dyrschka and her interviewees do a wonderful job of arguing as to why af Klint deserves to get greater recognition than she does for her contributions to a movement of art that has transitioned from being something against the grain to a more widely utilized form of self-expression.
Part of what makes the movie so intriguing is that it questions what it means to be an artist. When af Klint was working in the early part of the twentieth century, her style challenged everything that people knew about art at the time. While society’s understanding of art has broadened since then, the film still offers a very compelling exploration of the definition of art.
One of the things that Dyrschka does very well is that she makes the movie very palatable for wide audiences. A lot of recent documentaries about abstract artists play into the more experimental nature of the artists’ work, and while that is fitting, Dyrschka takes a very different direction here, instead providing a more general survey of what she accomplished.
Dyrschka was able to assemble a wonderful group of interviewees for the film, from art critics who comment on the nature and importance of af Klint’s work to working artists who have been influenced by af Klint’s contributions. This is admittedly a safe way for the story to be told, but it works, especially since the movie’s main goal seems to be to increase the public’s awareness of af Klint.
Of course, the film does feature plenty of af Klint’s artwork, which is likely going to be a significant draw for the movie’s target audience. However, even beyond that, Dyrschka’s film is very aesthetically-driven as all great art documentaries are. Nearly every frame is gorgeously composed.
Beyond the Visible - Hilma af Klint is a well-made biography of an unsung figure in the art world. Even though abstract art isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, this documentary is accessible and informative enough that it has plenty to interest even those who wouldn’t consider themselves fans.
Beyond the Visible - Hilma af Klint begins streaming online on April 17 in partnership with indie theaters. Participating locations can be found here.