Drama based on a true story. An Austrian-Jewish refugee living in Los Angeles launches a legal campaign to reclaim a Gustav Klimt painting stolen from her family by the Nazis.
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My sister, Luise, we really loved each other,
but the truth is we were always competing.
If life is a race, then she has beaten me to the finishing line.
But if it is a boxing match,
then I am the last one standing.
Either way, we went through a great deal together,
and I will miss you.
Barbara, thank you so much for coming. It means a lot to me.
Our families go back a long way.
Your son, the lawyer, how is he?
Oh, struggling, I'm afraid.
After law school, he went to work for a fancy firm,
and then decided to go out on his own in Pasadena.
-And what happened?
-It all fell apart.
Add those debts to seven years of student loans, and things aren't great.
Oh, I'm so sorry to hear that.
You need a lawyer?
Just some letters I found in my sister's belongings.
I need advice from someone I can trust.
I'll have him call you.
I really feel...
I really feel like, with a firm such as this, sir,
that I would be
ready and willing to... PHONE RINGS
No, not a, not a, not a good time, Mom.
Not a good time - I'll call, call you later.
Hi, Randy Schoenberg here to see Bergen, Brown and Sherman.
I'd like to make the most of the opportunities offered here.
With a firm as impressive as this, I'd be extremely motivated
to deliver my very best each and every day.
You any relation to the famous composer, Schoenberg?
Arnold was my grandfather, sir.
But he died before I was born.
His music demands a certain quality of application.
But the rewards validate the effort.
One of the things I'd most look forward to about, uh,
working here is exploring your larger scale...
And Judge Schoenberg is your father.
Retired now, yes, sir.
Outstanding lineage, Mr Schoenberg.
What happened in Pasadena?
Well, I took a risk.
Set up my own law firm, and it didn't pay off. You know.
Working for yourself isn't all it's hyped up to be.
So now you're ready to work with others?
Well, let's give it a go, Mr Schoenberg.
I was expecting you at six. It's ten past.
My apologies, Mrs Altmann. It was gridlock on Wilshire.
You look tired and stressed, but you're not bad-looking.
-You were such a skinny boy.
So, what do you know about art restitution?
Not a thing.
Well, it's never too late to learn.
Why don't you come on inside?
Have some strudel. I made it specially for you.
My sister is the pretty little girl on the left, Luise.
And I am the moody one next to her.
My parents, Therese and Gustav.
My uncle Ferdinand, who owned a sugar company,
and his wife, Aunt Adele, who died so young.
Adele didn't have any children,
so we all lived together as one family.
In a way, I had two sets of parents.
I found these letters amongst my sister's belongings.
Look, I've translated them for you, on the back.
From our family lawyer in Vienna, Johann Rinesch.
All about our paintings that were stolen by the Nazis.
I read in The New York Times
that things are changing in Austria.
How are they changing?
They're redrafting the art restitution laws.
Reviewing old cases.
My sister finally moves in with me.
The only problem is she decides to do it when she's dead.
Well, at least you won't be having any arguments that way.
What I mean is-is that, you know how roommates,
they tend to argue about dishes in the sink and stuff and
you won't be having any arguments,
because, about dishes, cos, you know...
cos she's dead.
I'm so sorry. I'm I was...
I was making a joke and it didn't, uh...
Ah, here she is.
My Aunt Adele.
My uncle commissioned Gustav Klimt to paint her.
That's quite a painting.
She was taken off the walls of our home by the Nazis,
and since then, she's been hanging
in the Belvedere Gallery in Vienna.
And now you'd like to be reunited.
Wouldn't that be lovely?
Make you a rich woman, I'm sure.
You think that's what this is about?
No, I have to do what I can to keep these memories alive.
Because people forget, you see.
Especially the young.
And then, of course, there's justice.
I bored you to tears tonight.
Four times you looked at your watch.
You know, this was a test and we both failed.
I'm sorry. I-I-I'm sorry I wasted your time.
I got a new job today.
A baby that keeps me up at night, a wife I want to make happy.
So why would you be interested in ancient history?
Goodbye, my dear.
Struwwelpeter, the book that you had in your hand.
My grandmother used to read that to me.
Terrifying. The one about the boy who gets swept away by the wind.
Into a terrible adventure.
Used to frighten me, too.
Why don't you just take a look at these,
and tell me if I have a case.
That's all I ask from you.
"11th of April, 1948.
"Dear Luise Bloch-Bauer"
That's her sister.
"The Austrian government has decided
"they will hold on to the Klimt portrait of your aunt
"and four other Klimts which they insist
"were bequeathed to the gallery in her will,
"a fact which they claim as incontestable.
"The will itself
"I have not seen
"despite my persistent attempts to do so.
"Yours sincerely, Johann Rinesch."
Her lawyer never saw the will?
Nobody saw the will.
Hi, Mrs Altmann. Hi.
Uh, we just, we just need to photocopy these
just over here, OK?
Everybody here looks as if they're having nervous breakdowns.
They are, they are.
I was up till 3am. I did a little research for you.
Get someone on the ground in Vienna. For the first time in 50 years, they've opened up the archives,
so start by trying to find a copy of Adele's will.
-And then what?
-The Austrian Ministry of Culture will set up a committee to review each case individually,
but you need to fill out an application for them to consider your claim by the end of next month
-at the latest.
-At the latest, yes, I've already sent away for the form.
Slow down. You can explain everything to me
-No. Mrs Altmann, I can't do lunch.
I know a very nice place. They do excellent rice pudding.
All right, these are three names
of the top restitution lawyers in America.
They're going to cost you, but without them it's a non-starter.
No, no, all I have is my shop, my bungalow and a little money
I saved up for a new dishwasher.
No, I can't go throwing cash at fancy lawyers.
Right, I-I have to go, so...
Can't you just help me out a little bit, on the side?
You know, like a hobby.
There is no "on the side" here, Maria.
This is a full-time job, this is not a hobby.
You are quite rude, you're a little uncouth,
and you are completely disinterested in the past.
And you have an unusual talent for making me feel good about myself.
But you have the connection.
Your grandparents came here from Austria.
You see, we share the same history.
Oh, how can you see out of those glasses?
Yes, that's better. Help you see more clearly.
I see this as a possible investment for the firm.
You really think a painting that ends up as a fridge magnet
will ever leave Austria?
I think it'd be a mistake not to take a look.
One week, max.
Thank you. Thank you, sir.
I want you back here on the third.
Uh, absolutely, sir. Thank you.
-I'll close the shop only when I croak.
I got the green light. I'm going to go over there,
I'm going to try to find the will, and then we'll take it from there.
You're chomping at the bite all of a sudden.
Yes, I am. And I have another idea.
My mother sent this over.
There's an art restitution conference planned for later this month.
They're looking for speakers. I think you should be one of them.
-What are you talking about?
from one of the great Viennese families.
The press would love you. It would speed things up.
It'd apply pressure.
I love your enthusiasm, and, after all, I'm not a spring chicken.
We have to get a move on.
But I'm afraid, in your haste, there's been a misunderstanding.
I'm not going back to that place. Not now, not ever.
I-I don't understand.
They destroyed my family,
they killed my friends,
and they forced me to abandon
the people and the places that I loved.
That was over a half a century ago.
You think that's a long time?
It would be a few days, that's it. We'd be in and out.
Randy, you're not listening to me.
I would rather die than go back there,
not for all the paintings in the world.
Anyway... A week ago, you weren't even interested in the case,
and now you're all over me like a rash. What happened?
Hmm. Against my better judgment,
I think I like you.
-'For how long?
-Four or five days, a week at the most.
Depends on the reception I get.
What's your plan?
Dora, I'm not emigrating to the Congo,
I'm going to Austria for a few days, with the firm's blessing.
What do you think?
I think that's a yes.
MAN SINGS IN GERMAN
MAN CONTINUES SINGING IN GERMAN
-I know it's the middle of the night,
but if I wait until the morning,
I might change my mind.
I have decided to face the ghosts.
Oh, your mom called again this morning.
She wants you to visit the Holocaust Memorial when you're there.
-She mentioned it already, seven times.
-Well, she said to do it in honour
-of your great-grandparents.
-Siegmund and Malvina.
Oh, she had the most beautiful eyes, you know.
Enormous, like an owl.
This is an awfully big suitcase you've packed, Maria.
You sure you brought enough stuff?
If I'm going back, I might as well do it in style.
Pam, darling, could you drive a little faster?
I, uh, I think, at this rate, we're going to miss the plane.
-We're going to be there four hours early.
-Yes, but I want to buy perfume and cognac in duty-free.
Look, move over there.
Pam, darling, move over. Move over now.
With pleasure, Mrs Altmann.
I never thought I'd come back.
Some guy from the Ministry's agreed to meet me tomorrow.
I'm sure he's in charge of paper clips.
We're lucky anyone has agreed to meet us at all.
You don't have to come, if you don't want to.
Oh, we haven't even arrived,
and you're already trying to get rid of me?
That's not what I said. I just meant you don't HAVE to come.
Anyway. I want to go to the Belvedere to visit my aunt.
You know, the postcard doesn't do her justice.
-You were born in Vienna, Mrs Altmann?
-Yes, yes, I was, yes.
Uh, just around the corner, yes.
Yes, but I choose to speak English.
I hope you enjoy your stay.
I'll certainly try.
There it is.
The apartment on the second floor - that's our home.
Oh, the things this house has seen, Randy.
Great artists, musicians, writers passed through those doors.
Including, of course, your grandfather.
And Dr Freud himself.
On my wedding night, half of Vienna was here.
I spotted your name on the list of speakers
for the restitution conference and tracked you down.
-And you are?
-Hubertus Czernin, investigative reporter.
-Welcome to Vienna.
Can I buy you a drink?
I'm the editor.
My little Austrian baby. Keeps me sane.
When I wrote a piece exposing the Nazi past
of our own President Waldheim
a man walked up to me in a supermarket and spat in my face.
He called me a traitor.
I said to him, "I'm a true Austrian."
And what makes you interested in a couple of...
Californian tourists, Mr Czernin?
I just thought you could do with an Austrian friend.
You know, this whole restitution thing began as a PR exercise.
Austria wanted to improve its image abroad,
but now it's turning into a Pandora's box.
They don't want to give away their treasures.
So they're going to put as many obstacles in your way as possible,
and I might just be able to help you get over some of them.
What's in it for you? What's your motive?
Let's just say it's a very particular brand of patriotism.
Now, if you will excuse me,
I think I will treat us to another round of drinks.
Oh, yes, that's a wonderful idea.
MAN SINGS ITALIAN ARIA
ALL RESPOND IN GERMAN
'The restitution committee'
has decided your case is worthy of a review, Mrs Altmann.
Young Mr Schoenberg and I have travelled all this way,
so we would appreciate discussing the case
with the committee before they make the decision.
The committee does not interact with external parties.
And we are an external party, are we?
The paintings belonged to Mrs Altmann's family.
You must trust that all due procedures will be followed.
And now, if you don't mind,
I have a reception to go to.
Do enjoy your stay in our beautiful city.
It has been a real pleasure...
to meet you.
HE SIGHS How're you doing?
I don't know if I have the strength to deal with these people
and I've only been here a day.
Come on, let's go.
There's no way we're going to get a copy
of Adele's will before we have to leave.
No. The archive department was not exactly helpful.
Well, thankfully, I have what is commonly known
as a mole at the Belvedere.
Someone who can speed things up.
On Mondays, the museum is closed,
but my friendly mole will be waiting for you.
I hope you're not allergic to a little dust.
Now, didn't I tell you he was going to be useful, Randy?
Be patient, Maria. He's soon going to find out
that some Austrians are his friends, whatever their motives.
Keep working at it.
Also painted by Klimt.
She was a friend of our family.
She died in a death camp.
Mrs Altmann, your aunt is around this corner.
Are you ready for the reunion?
Rightly or wrongly, she has become embedded in Austria's identity.
A national icon. Adele has become part of the country's psyche.
CROWD CHEERING, MARCHING BAND PLAYING
CHEERING GETS LOUDER
CELLO PLAYING GENTLE MINOR-KEY MELODY
HAMMERING ON DOOR
I could've searched for the family file on my own, you know.
I wasn't going to miss all the fun.
This is like a James Bond film, and you're Sean Connery.
-It's an honour to meet you.
-Thank you so much for doing this for us.
So you know Hubertus?
Everything from the museum records prior to 1972
is held in the same room.
I think you're going to have a busy day.
Roll up your sleeves, Randy.
Congratulations. Quite a treasure trove of information.
Hubertus and I were up all night going over the file.
Well, I'm glad to see you're getting on so well together.
So now we can start
to actually put together a picture of what really happened.
Maria, you are the living link to the past.
Hanging on by my fingernails.
Tell us what you know.
Adele died in 1925.
Meningitis. She was only 43.
My Uncle Ferdinand was devastated.
And then, of course, the will, written in 1923,
two years before she died.
Her signature. Oh, my God.
I'll translate as accurately as I can.
"I kindly ask my husband
"to bequeath my portrait
"and the other Klimt paintings after his death
"to the Belvedere Gallery in Vienna."
So she did leave them to the gallery.
Oh, Randy, have we come all this way for nothing?
One step at a time, Maria.
She does, in fact, request for the paintings to go
to the Belvedere, but the request has a very specific condition attached to it.
She specifically asks the paintings
go to the Belvedere after Ferdinand's death.
Let's tell the story chronologically.
Maria, do you have any idea of what happened
to your family's property after you got away?
Not at all. Unlike Lot's wife, I never looked back.
Maybe now it's time to know.
After you escaped Austria, Maria, your home
became the scene of one of the great thefts of the time.
Your family's belongings
ended up in the hands of the most powerful
criminals of the Nazi elite.
All of our things, our personal things?
Did you know, for instance, that one of your uncle's favourite paintings,
-a Waldmuller portrait of Count Esterhazy...
-Yes, yes, I remember.
It was hanging in the living room.
I never liked it, actually.
..ended up decorating the walls of no less a place than the Berghof,
Hitler's private residence in the Bavarian Alps.
Or that your aunt's necklace,
the same one she wears in the Klimt portrait,
came to adorn the neck of Emmy Goering,
Hermann Goering's wife?
I don't think I want to hear this.
The Nazis themselves were not so keen on the Klimts.
They were, after all, a bit too degenerate for their taste.
But the paintings caught the eye of someone
with a more prescient and refined appreciation of art,
The paintings were taken off the walls of your family home
and carefully transported to the Belvedere.
Certain facts had to be altered,
like your aunt's name and her Jewish provenance, of course.
For a short while after the war,
she became simply known as
Woman In Gold.
So her identity was stolen, as well.
It wasn't enough to rob your family and try to destroy it.
No. You had to be eradicated from history.
-So the paintings reached the Belvedere.
-Your uncle, Maria, died...
-At the end of the war, 1945.
So, contrary to the request in Adele's will,
the paintings ended up in the Belvedere well before his death.
And if I'm not mistaken, he wrote his own will before he died.
Yes, he did.
Leaving everything he owned, or at least what was left of it,
to you and your sister, his only living heirs.
It was one of the last things he did before he died a few days later.
Yes, but won't they argue that Adele did leave them to the gallery?
So, really, we don't have a case.
Randy, why don't you show Maria our trump card?
That is a declaration that Ferdinand paid
-for the paintings.
He was the rightful owner, not Adele.
The paintings weren't hers to give away.
So the will is invalid?
Technically, it's not a will.
It's not legally binding.
It's more like a wish.
Now we need to get all this to Rudolf Wran, the head of the restitution committee.
Yes. And then your aunt is coming home with us.
Randy, wait and listen.
She is the Mona Lisa of Austria.
Do you think they will just let her go?
See, we've left Mr Wran
four messages this morning alone.
Mr Wran is very busy right now.
-Yes, of course we understand,
but it is essential that we speak with him.
-The problem is it's imperative that we speak to him this morning.
-Randy, is that him?
I think it's best if you leave him a message.
Mr Wran? Mr...Mr Rudolf Wran?
Hi. I'm Randy Schoenberg.
This is my client, Mrs Altmann.
-How do you do?
-Of course. I'm so sorry
I haven't had a moment to reply to your calls.
-Please don't apologise.
You're a very important man, very busy.
There's new information the restitution committee needs to be aware of
before they come to any decision on the Bloch-Bauer case.
Is there indeed?
It's all in here. I've made some observations in the margins. Excuse my handwriting.
You've been busy during your stay in Vienna.
We didn't come here to eat cake.
Mr Schoenberg, I understand you're the composer's grandson.
Now, do you know what a fan I am of his work?
You're a man of refined taste, Mr Wran.
The genius of the 12-tone compositional system
should not be underestimated.
Thank you for your efforts, but we have all the information we need now.
If you'll excuse me, there's work to be done.
It's hard to believe Hitler once applied to be an art student here.
I wish they'd accepted him.
They're all here.
The woman just coming in the door...
Elizabeth Gehrer, Minister of Culture.
With your new friend, Rudolf Wran.
Quite a turnout.
They're putting on a very good show.
Welcome to the Restitution Conference.
TRANSLATES INTO GERMAN
I will never forget the day that they stormed in our house
and...took our paintings off the wall.
Our maid went into my mother's wardrobe...
and took out the clothes, and she said to her,
"Don't think of going to the police,
"because they'll be here anyway."
And so it was.
Some police came,
and other people, and stripped the place.
When people see the famous portrait, they see
a masterpiece by one of Austria's finest artists.
But I see a picture of my aunt,
a woman who talked to me about life
while I brushed her hair in her bedroom.
You see, that's an interesting word.
You know, I looked it up in the dictionary.
"Restitution - the return of something to its original state."
Now, that made me think.
You see, I would love to return to my original state.
I would love to be a happy woman living in this beautiful city.
Like so many of my generation who had to flee,
I will never forgive them for preventing me from living here.
At the very least, we should be reunited with what is rightfully ours.
Mrs Altmann, Dr Bernhard Kohler.
I work at the Belvedere Gallery.
And how can I help you, Dr Kohler?
If the decision of the committee is in your favour, take the three landscapes,
but we implore you, not the portraits.
You have grown attached to them.
We cannot imagine Austria without them.
once the past has been put to right,
I would be open to an arrangement with you.
Maria, may I speak with you for a moment?
Will you excuse me? I think my lawyer's getting a trifle nervous.
Please feel free to call me so we can resume the conversation.
I think we need to be careful about what we say.
Oh, you mean you think I should be careful about what I say.
A moment ago, you called me your lawyer. Most people take advice from their lawyers.
Yes, when they ask for it.
Now, if you don't mind, I would like to walk back to the hotel alone.
DISTANT BELL TOLLING
DOOR BELLS JINGLING
Ja, ja, ja.
CROWD JEERS AND YELLS
CAR HORN HONKS
And this is Minister Gehrer.
How do you do?
Dr Dreimann here is our principal attorney on this very complicated case.
Some cases are more complicated than others,
but after much deliberation,
we regret to inform you, Frau Altmann,
that the committee has decided that the five Klimt paintings
hanging in the Belvedere will remain there.
Please tell me this is a joke.
They're not joking, Randy.
-Your aunt's will should be obeyed.
-But that's the point. It isn't even a will.
Uh, the paintings aren't hers to give away. Here.
Uh, where is it?
We have proof that the paintings were Ferdinand's property,
not his wife's, which makes her will invalid.
I think this is the one you're looking for.
And that's ignoring the fact that there was a deliberate cover-up to conceal the manner
in which the paintings ended up in the gallery.
They're not interested in the facts, Randy.
Your aunt's request needs to be respected.
It's not a legally binding will.
Do you imagine my aunt would have written those words
if she knew what was to come?
The looting of her home, the murder of her people.
Our decision is non-negotiable.
If you don't agree with it, your only option is to pursue the case in court.
Come on, Randy, let's go.
Dr Dreimann, you speak as if you knew my aunt,
but you did not know her,
and I can tell you right now that what you have decided today
would make her ashamed to call herself an Austrian.
And you should be ashamed, too.
It's not America. In order to pursue the case in Austria,
the government demands a deposit against the cost of 1.8 million, and that's for starters.
Based on a portion of the estimated value of the paintings.
OK, so on one hand, they're saying, "Take us to court."
On the other hand, it's financially impossible for us to do that.
Your hands are tied behind your back, yes.
What about arbitration here in Vienna?
Nobody will decide to give you back the paintings, Randy, nobody.
It's a total waste of time and money.
No more daydreaming.
Thank you, Hubertus, for all your effort.
Come on, Randy.
It's time to go pack.
KNOCKING ON DOOR
-Just checking on you.
-Come in. Sit down.
How're you doing?
That's what happens when you have to deal all day
with a lot of grim shits.
They'll never admit to what they did,
because if they admit to one thing, they have to admit to it all.
Admit to what?
They were never victims.
Most of them threw flowers and welcomed the Nazis with open arms,
and that's the simple truth.
It's with great pleasure that I announce
that Klimt's Adele will be remaining in Austria.
This is a victory for the Belvedere Gallery
and a victory for the Austrian people.
-Oh, enough. Switch it off.
Tomorrow we will go home,
and, on the way to the airport,
we will stop to pay our respects
at the Holocaust Memorial.
That way, we will not have come here in vain.
BELL TOLLING IN DISTANCE
BICYCLE BELL DINGS
The camp where my great-grandparents were murdered.
They died soon after your grandfather escaped to America.
I remember them well.
They had a cherry blossom tree in the garden,
and she had the most beautiful eyes.
Your mother reminds me of her.
Then they were taken away in the middle of the night.
we must go to the airport now.
Know what? Um...
I'm going to use the men's room.
-I'll be right back.
HE EXHALES AND SNIFFLES
My grandfather used to say the three things that
he hated most in life were Hitler, his grandmother,
and the Los Angeles sun, but I got to say,
everything about Los Angeles feels pretty damn great right now.
You know if my darling Fritz was still alive,
he would welcome us home with an aria.
-To Randy and Maria.
-ALL: Randy and Maria.
We did our best and that's what matters.
We did everything we could.
The past is the past,
and now we must let it go.
I went for the money.
Those paintings are worth over 100 million.
That's why I went out there with her.
I went for the money, Pam.
But you're home now, and it's OK.
That's 29, sir.
-Thank you, Mrs Scheff.
-Oh. Excuse me.
Fancy seeing you again, after all this time.
Belvedere catalogue, on sale in Barnes & Noble on Wilshire.
And hello to you, too. What are you babbling about?
You don't understand. We got 'em.
You can sue them here, in the US.
Oh. Not all that again.
Oh, anyway, Randy, I thought you said
we couldn't sue them here because of that
foreign state immunity thing.
I did, but I found a loophole. Three conditions.
-When the property's taken in violation of international law.
-Which it was.
And that property is owned by an agency of a foreign state.
You mean the Belvedere Gallery?
Thank you. And that agency engages in a commercial activity within the USA.
Selling books in Barnes & Noble?
Thank you. If you meet these criteria, you can sue them here in the US.
Congratulations. You meet 'em. You can sue.
Yes, but I don't want to.
Oh, don't you remember what I told you, Randy?
-You just have to move on.
'It's a long shot.'
For starters, there's no precedent.
There is. There's one case that I found, sir.
A Jewish family from Argentina, they lost a hotel.
The answer is no.
I have a real feeling about this, sir.
Since when have we been paying you to have feelings?
'It's commonly known as an ultimatum, Randy.'
I humoured you.
"Let him go to Europe," I thought, "let him flex his muscles."
God knows, I suppose there was a small part of me that hoped
-you were onto something.
-I think I am.
You're not. There isn't a case.
There's no enforcement mechanism between the US and Austria.
-Just one more go, sir.
-I need you here now.
No more extracurricular stuff,
and no more Klimts.
Hi. I'm here to file a lawsuit against the Austrian government.
I've filled in the summons and that's the complaint.
-What do I owe you?
-Well, that'll cost you 165.
I want to go to Austria one day, with my daughter.
-She loves kangaroos.
Hey, can you come with me for a second?
I'd like you to witness something.
Come on, come on, double time.
-Is Consul Brandstetter around?
-I'm afraid not, sir.
-Oh, well, tell him
that Mrs Altmann and Randy Schoenberg dropped by.
-I think he may have heard of us.
-What do we want with the Austrian Consul?
Please inform him that I'm dropping off a summons and complaint. Here it is.
We're taking the Austrian government to court.
-Have a nice day.
Will you slow down a little, please, and tell me what's going on?
We're taking them to court.
No, you can't do this. You can't just go charging ahead
like a mad steam roller.
-Randy, stop walking so fast.
I can't keep up with you. Stop!
I told you before I have no interest in suing them.
I have had enough excitement.
I have returned to my quiet life
and finally begun to find some peace again.
Say that again with conviction.
Don't be impertinent.
Oh, you do annoy me.
Anyway, you don't have the time for this.
You have a family to support, and you have a full-time job.
-What do you mean you quit?
-I quit my job.
Hey, I talked to my father, he can give us a loan, you know.
-To keep us afloat for a few months.
Just when we're expecting another baby.
Don't you think we're under pressure enough?
We're supposed to make these decisions together.
-Isn't that the point?
Something happened out there, and I don't know...
I don't know why, but I can't let it go.
I think it's important.
I'm so sorry.
Let's hope we're not wasting our time today.
You realise this is only the first stage, right?
They've hired Stan Gould of Heimann Rose,
which is a hotshot Jewish law firm.
Mm. Nice of them to give jobs to Jewish boys(!)
They're trying to dismiss the case on procedural grounds,
which is just a fancy way of saying "We're trying to drag it out."
In the hopes that I'll die before the case comes to court.
Well, I will do them the favour of staying alive.
Oh, Randy, can't you drive a little faster?
The chocolate on your doughnut is melting.
-Mr Gould. Hi.
-An absolute pleasure, sir.
-Dr Dreimann, nice of you to come from Austria.
-That's very flattering.
-I've always wanted to visit Disneyland.
Two birds with one stone, as they say.
I hope we make your visit worthwhile.
Mrs Altmann, you're looking even younger than you did in Vienna.
You know, this morning, I feel as if I have
another 50 years in front of me.
BAILIFF: All rise.
-Stop it. Stop it.
-You have chocolate...
-Let us begin. Mr Gould?
the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act was passed in 1976,
a good 38 years after the events in question.
It seems to me obvious that the FSIA rulings
cannot be retroactively applied, and I'm bewildered
that Mrs Altmann's counsel has not advised her of this fact.
It would have saved her a great deal of inconvenience
and an equal amount of false hope.
No, not really it is not an inconvenience for me.
Mondays is a quiet day in my shop anyway, so...
I'm glad to hear it, Mrs Altmann, but from now on would you mind only speaking when you're asked?
There are certain procedures which must be adhered to in a courtroom.
Your Honour, Mr Gould is right, um, to point out
that the FSIA was enacted in 1976,
but he's mistaken in his theory that it cannot be applied retroactively.
Um, if I may?
Despite the fact that actions
accruing before 1976 are rarer, they very much exist.
These are just three examples of them.
Thank you very much, Mr Schoenberg, I'm sure this will prove to be a riveting read.
Let's adjourn for ten minutes.
This is a domestic matter for Austria.
Anything else would be a violation of its national sovereignty.
After all, there is a forum for Mrs Altmann
to pursue her case in Austria without resorting to American courts
and American taxpayers' money.
I applaud Mr Gould's concern for the American taxpayer,
but taking the defendant to court in Austria
would require that Mrs Altmann be a multimillionairess.
It's not an option.
As a matter of fact, we've exhausted all other options.
If we hadn't, we wouldn't be standing before you today.
The plaintiff has adequately proven
that the FSIA can apply to pre-1976 events.
Also, due to prohibitive costs,
this court has decided that Austria provides
an inadequate forum for resolution of plaintiff's claim.
-Defendant's motion to dismiss is denied.
BAILIFF: All rise.
First hurdle down.
You know, I've always thought there should be more women judges.
This is a setback, absolutely.
Congratulations, Mr Schoenberg.
-An unexpected outcome, which no doubt has delighted you.
-You're a very busy man.
I would urge you to consider mediation.
There will be no mediation, Mr Schoenberg.
You've been exceptionally lucky today, but make no mistake, we'll take this
to the Supreme Court if we have to.
Good day to you.
MAN: Mrs Altmann, I'm Ronald Lauder.
The son of Estee.
Her lipsticks are marvellous.
Stay Mocha, my favourite.
I have so much respect for your campaign.
The artworks stolen by the Nazis are the last prisoners of World War II,
and Adele is their queen.
My aunt would be very flattered.
I was a young man when I first saw the portrait,
and I instantly fell in love.
-Which is why I want it for my gallery in New York.
We're jumping the gun a little here, Mr Lauder.
Well, one needs to do what one can
to make a favourable outcome as likely as possible.
Which brings me to young Mr Schoenberg.
-Now, he's been a formidable ally...
-And continues to be one.
He's very smart, but I'm afraid
he's not cut out for the Supreme Court, Mrs Altmann.
Getting you through the complex appeal process
is one thing, but Washington?
It'd be a little like sending a schoolboy onto the front line.
You think so?
I'm willing to pay for you to have the finest representation from this point on.
The man I have in mind is to art restitution
what Einstein is to relativity.
He's done his homework on your case.
Let's say he knows his stuff. Can I ask him to call you?
You can ask him to take a hike.
I'm sticking with my schoolboy, Mr Lauder.
HE CLEARS THROAT The repeated attempts
to have this case dismissed by the by the defence has been nothing...
Honey, we need to take Dora to your mother's and then go to the hospital.
-Should I go deeper with the voice?
-Sweetie, my water broke.
-My water just broke.
-OK, just stay calm, just stay calm. Are you OK?
-Honey, I'm fine.
-You're having a baby now.
-I'm aware of that. You should wear this tie and shirt to the Supreme Court.
This is the one your dad got you.
You need to take me to the hospital, then you need to go to Washington.
-You need to do this for all of us.
-Hold on, hold on.
-Are you sure about that?
whatever I said, I want you to know I am with you now,
and even if it doesn't work out we will manage.
Either way, we're going to be OK.
You're doing the right thing.
Have a cough drop.
I'll leave it here for later.
even if we go no further,
we made it all the way to the Supreme Court.
And that's quite a long way for an Austrian girl like me.
Can you please show me the way to the washroom, sir?
Good, now say it again,
but with an American accent.
If you say it like this, then nobody will understand you.
You can talk. You sound like a silly Frankfurter.
I am a man, not a sausage.
Which one of you is Maria Altmann?
Telegram for you.
-We'll hear arguments next in 0313.
The Republic of Austria versus Maria Altmann.
Mr Chief Justice, and may it please the court,
I'll keep my arguments succinct, sir.
This is a domestic matter for Austria.
It has no place in the American courts.
Thank you, Mr Gould.
Mr Franks, representing the United States government.
Your opening statement, please.
Mr Chief Justice,
if this law were to be applied retroactively,
it could open claims brought against a number of foreign states,
which would further complicate our international relations.
Give me an example.
Currently, there are cases pending against countries such as Japan and France.
So what you're saying is Mrs Altmann
shouldn't try to reclaim her paintings
because it would affect our relations with Japan?
That could be a possible outcome, Your Honour.
it would seem that if your case goes forward,
world diplomacy will collapse,
and you will be solely responsible(!)
Mr Chief Justice,
and may it please the court.
We believe applying the FSIA is not impermissibly retroactive.
Why isn't it just as easy to say that it DOES act retroactively?
Hm? Because the question is, when should it exercise jurisdiction
for a particular purpose?
I'm sorry, uh, I'm not sure I understand the question.
I'm not sure I did, either.
We're very sensitive to the government's concerns, Mr Chief Justice,
uh, in the can-of-worms argument.
But each country is different and poses different conditions. Unlike, say, Cuba,
in Austria's case, there's a treaty, so there's no dispute as to what type of law could apply.
We recommend opening the can
and extracting just the one little worm
with a pair of tweezers, and then quickly closing it shut again.
The defendants in this case have continuously tried to frustrate our attempts,
raising every possible objection, threatening an Armageddon in international relations,
but let's put things into perspective here.
This is a case of one woman wanting back what is rightfully hers.
Mrs Altmann came to America
as a young woman in search of peace.
Let's give her justice, too.
Thank you, Mr Schoenberg.
Mrs Altmann, were you surprised that the US Government
supported the Austrians in trying to get the case dismissed?
Certain people would like me to hurry up and die.
-Why not the Americans, too?
ALL FIRE QUESTIONS
David Pike, court reporter.
You were impressive in there, no doubt.
Oh, thank you. Randy Schoenberg.
Takes about three months for the verdict to come through, but no way you're going to win.
-I've been doing this job for 34 years.
I'm always right, it's in their body language.
-Thank you, that's a cheerful way to end the day(!)
-All right, take care.
He waved at you.
Honey, can you stop looking at your watch every two minutes?
You can't give up just yet. The fight goes on.
The Supreme Court ruled in our favour. We can take the Austrians to court.
From the first moment I saw you, I knew you were the right man for the job.
That's why I ignored all the terrible bits.
I thought this was the outcome you wanted.
Sure, we could take them to court.
They'll find other ways to stretch it out, you know.
This could take a few more years.
She may not live long enough to see the outcome, and we can't afford it.
Honey, we've come so far. We can't stop now.
There is one more thing we could try.
As a gesture of reconciliation,
I am willing to allow the paintings to remain in the Belvedere.
All you have to do is to admit that you took them illegally.
Yes, and then, of course, come to some agreement
on the question of compensation.
I'm afraid we are not budging, and that is final.
Can you help me understand the inflexible position that you're taking?
We will not be paying for something we believe is ours,
and we will fight you till the end before we concede on this.
Arbitration in Vienna.
-We choose one of the arbitrators, you choose the other, the third is neutral.
Now you're talking sense.
This sounds like a reasonable idea.
-Randy, may I speak with you in private, please?
First you make me agree to a mediation, and now this.
Are you crazy enough to think that some arbitration in Vienna
is going to vote in our favour?
I honestly don't think that we have a choice.
That means we have to go back to Austria.
Listen to me.
I can't sit here and argue with you, OK? I'm doing what I think is best.
Now, you just need to be quiet for once, and trust me.
No, Randy, I will NOT be quiet!
Enough is enough.
Congratulations, Dr Dreimann.
Your tactics have succeeded.
I'm not playing this game any more.
Goodbye, Mrs Altmann.
Nice one, Maria, real nice.
I don't want to talk to you.
Well, the feeling is mutual, but we don't have a choice.
We made a mistake.
What's over? What are you saying?
I'm saying we should accept defeat.
And go back to what's left of our lives.
Are you insane?
I'm saying I'm tired and they can keep the paintings!
What I'm saying, Randy, is that, as of this moment,
I no longer require your services.
Are you kidding me?
I've given everything that I have. I am in so much debt.
My wife and I, my children, everything I care about in this world,
and you have the nerve to... Everything that I've done, I've done
to get those goddamn paintings back for you.
I wish you'd never asked me.
And you have the nerve to come here and say to me that it's over?
We're so close, you...
Just hang in there.
The Austrians will never let go.
But I won't let them humiliate me again.
Go back to Vienna if you have to, but this time, I'm not coming with you.
You are on your own, Randy.
-Arbitration may be affordable,
but it's also a risk.
The man we chose for the arbitration panel is a safe bet, but I'm worried about the other two, I can't lie.
The one chosen by the Austrian State is a strict traditionalist.
I can't see her deciding in your favour.
And as for the third...
well, it's a gamble.
-I never thought you would come back and, personally,
I need to be honest, I don't think it's the right decision.
You are betting on Austria having changed.
Yeah, two tickets, please.
You have the same name as the composer.
What a coincidence.
CLASSICAL MUSIC PLAYING
-The Austrian Government has provided
its case in writing for our perusal.
Mr Schoenberg, you, too, were offered the opportunity
to do so, but you have opted
to present the introductory points
of your argument orally, as well.
The floor is yours.
Thank you, sir.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I'm pleased to be standing before you today for two reasons.
Firstly, like my opponents in this case,
I've always believed it was a domestic issue for Austria,
which should be settled...
..within her borders.
-The first time, I came for myself.
This time, I came for him.
And the second reason that I'm happy,
happy to be in Vienna,
was because my client,
Mrs Altmann, and I are both Austrians.
But don't get me wrong, we're very much Americans, too,
but our families, and the roots we share,
are situated in the culture of this very city.
And somewhere in the heart of this world
stands a woman whose portrait both sides are fighting for -
During my visits to this country, I've discerned
that there are two Austrias, one which opposes restitution to the victims of Nazism,
but also another, which recognises the injustices
committed against Austria's Jewish population and, against all odds, seeks to rectify it.
As I hope I've demonstrated in my written arguments,
the law favours restitution.
A string of events and misdeeds
point to the incontestable fact
that the paintings in question reached the Belvedere
and remained there for over half a century, in a manner that was both dishonest and illegal,
and that Adele's will itself was not legally binding.
So, in its own way, ladies and gentlemen, this is a moment in history,
a moment in which the past is asking something of the present.
Many years ago, just outside these walls, terrible things happened.
People dehumanised other people,
sent many of them to their deaths,
decimating entire families.
And they stole from them.
objects most precious to them.
And amongst those people were the Bloch-Bauers,
the family of a very dear friend of mine.
So, now I'm asking you, as Austrians,
as human beings,
to recognise that wrong.
Not just for Maria Altmann,
but for Austria.
Would you look at that.
When I was a child,
my father used to bring me here on Sundays.
Yes, me too. For waffles and ice cream. Yes.
My father was an impressive man.
When I was a small boy, I looked up to him.
And you wanted to grow up to be like him.
When I was 15, I discovered that he had been a Nazi, Maria.
A passionate follower of the Third Reich.
All my life, I've been trying to make up for the sins of the father.
Every day, asking myself
how he could become the person he was.
And every day trying to move away from him.
You are a fine man, Hubertus.
A good man.
Is that it?
My heart is beating.
We, the arbitrators, have now studied both sides of this complex case.
Trying to keep an open mind
as we examine the evidence,
we have reached our final verdict.
Our decision today is that the portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer
and the other Klimt paintings in question
should be returned to her niece...
CHEERING AND SHOUTING
For the first time in a long while,
I'm proud to call myself an Austrian.
Oh, you should be.
It's almost press time. How do I look?
Sexy and victorious.
-How do I look?
-You look sexy and victorious.
Mrs Altmann, may I have a word?
Yes, of course.
but I will ask you, beg you,
not to let these paintings leave their motherland.
Let us come to an arrangement.
I'm sure we can make a generous offer.
I, too, am sad that they will not stay in Adele's country.
But all along, I have tried to negotiate,
I have tried to keep the dialogue open,
and all along, you have thwarted me and closed the doors in my face.
I am tired
and my aunt will cross the Atlantic
to make her home in America, as I once had to.
Goodbye, Mrs Altmann.
I think our friend might be needing a little attention.
Have I mentioned we couldn't have done it without you?
KNOCKING ON DOOR
In a moment, Randy.
You all right?
Thank you, my darling.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart,
for all you have done.
But my mistake was in thinking that it...
that it would make everything all right,
make it better.
You know, it doesn't...
..because I left them here.
I left them here, my love.
MARIA SOBS QUIETLY
IN ENGLISH: And so...from now on
we speak in the language of your future.
When our family came to Vienna,
they were not rich people.
We worked hard.
We did everything we could to contribute,
and to belong.
We are proud of what we have done
and we are proud of our children.
Nobody can take that away from us.
..as you go...
..I ask you only one thing, mein Liebling.
What is it, Papa?
SHE SOBS QUIETLY
I have been thinking about that smart Mr Lauder.
I think I want Adele to go and live in his gallery.
My only condition is that she must always be on public display.
That way, everyone can marvel at her.
After all, she is a little too big for my bungalow.
You could buy a new bungalow. Buy anything you want.
I'd like a new dishwasher.
You know, your grandfather would be proud of you.
You are keeping the memory alive.
Well, I didn't do it alone.
-Would you excuse me just for one moment?
PHONE RINGS IN DISTANCE
MELANCHOLIC MUSIC SOUNDTRACK OVER SPEECH
Drama based on a true story. An Austrian-Jewish refugee living in Los Angeles launches a legal campaign to reclaim a Gustav Klimt painting stolen from her family by the Nazis.