Review by Sean Boelman
Exploring the intersection of art and personal experience, Daniel Traub’s new documentary Ursula von Rydingsvard: Into Her Own tells the story of one of the most prolific artists working in three-dimensional art today. Too short to be particularly deep, but interesting nevertheless, it’s a worthwhile watch for anyone with a stake in creativity.
The film follows von Rydingsvard as she reflects on her past and upbringing, factors which have come to influence her approach to her extraordinary and unorthodox sculptures. Perhaps the most valuable information that this movie has to offer is a precise and detailed account of von Rydingsvard’s process, showing the way in which she executes her ideas.
However, at a mere fifty-seven minutes, one can’t help but feel like this film should have been something more. Although the length qualifies it as a feature, one would be hard-pressed to say that the movie feels entirely cohesive or satisfying. It’s only a cursory glance at an artist’s work, not the comprehensive survey that viewers deserve.
Traub’s film is at its best when it poses questions about the nature of creativity. There’s a really interesting story here about how von Rydingsvard’s trauma (she and her family were refugees from the Nazi occupation of Poland) would shape her self-expression in her later years. But unfortunately, with such little time, it isn’t explored in depth.
That said, the movie does an excellent job of making the viewer admire von Rydingsvard and her craft. There’s something alluring about the mysteriousness of sculpture, and this documentary pulls back the curtain on some of its secrets. And on another level, it is inspiring to see how she overcomes hardship to make her art.
As is the case with any good art documentary, the film is gorgeous. Traub’s camera does an excellent job of capturing von Rydingsvard’s work, both as it is being made and after it has been completed and is put on public display. Even if one is unfamiliar with her style, it’s hard not to find oneself in awe of her magnificent creations.
Much of the movie is told through fly-on-the-wall footage following von Rydingsvard in her day-to-day routine, and while this is an effective way of presenting the information, it’s also a lot more safe and conventional than it should be. With von Rydingsvard’s personality, it would have been nice had they given her more time to sit in front of the camera and just tell her story.
There were a lot of opportunities for Ursula von Rydingsvard: Into Her Own to be a longer and fuller documentary, and that admittedly hurts it. Regardless, it’s an interesting (if shallow) exploration of a unique corner of the art world.
Ursula von Rydingsvard: Into Her Own is now screening online in partnership with indie theaters. A list of participating locations can be found here.