HILMA – Movie Review

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Hilma is a sumptuous truth-based period drama that chronicles the life and work of Swedish artist Hilma aft Klint (1862 – 1944). Hilma was a brilliant and innovative artist whose abstract paintings preceded those of the better-known Russian painter Wassily Kandinsky (1866 – 1944), who has, until recently, been credited by art historians with the invention of abstract art.

Written and directed by Lasse Hallstrom, Hilma is decidedly feminist in telling the story of an extraordinarily talented and persistent woman whose genius was denied — because she was a woman. In fact, the ongoing denial of her work was so emotionally damaging that she decided to withdraw her art from public display. At one point she ordered that all of her work be destroyed. Fortunately, she rescinded that order, so the paintings survived. But they were hidden away for decades until they were brought into public view for the first time at an exhibit of af Klint’s work in Los Angeles in 1986.

The film is also a cinematic family affair, with Hallstrom’s wife, Lena Olin, cast as the elder Hilma and their daughter, Tora Hallstrom, portraying Hilma as the young artist/activist.

In addition to it’s laudable female-centered focus, the film garners praise for its stunning cinematic artistry. With its superb costume design by FLore Vauville, production design by Catharina Nyqvist Ehrnrooth and cinematography by Ragna Jorming (note, please, that they are all women!), Hilma transports you to a very different era and place. Although the distressing story of Hilma af Klint’s life and paintings illustrates the hardships of women creatives throughout history, the film itself is a cinematic journey that provides a welcome escape from current stress. But bear in mind that the film’s theme is still so very timely and that Hilma’s plight is relatable to women who are currently facing the same frustrations in their creative pursuits and other careers.

Title: Hilma
Director: Lasse Hallstrom
Release Date: April 14, 2023
Leading cast:
Running Time: 120 minutes
Language: Swedish with English subtitles
Screenwriters: Lasse Hallstrom
Distribution Company: Juno Films

EDITOR’S NOTE: Hilma is AWFJ’s Movie of the Week for April 14, 2023.

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