The book on which this film is based is called Lady in Gold and was published in 2012. It traces the story of the creation of one of Gustav Klimt’s famous portraits of Adele Bloch-Bauer, its seizure by Nazi authorities after the Austrian Anschluss in 1938, and the litigation ten years ago that ultimately led to its restitution and sale at auction, since which it has hung in the Neue Galerie in New York. This book and now film, is so good because of the way it weaves three eras together: early 20th century Vienna, the Nazi era, and modern times.
Adele Bloch Bauer and her niece (and the plaintiff in the litigation) Maria Altmann, played by Helen Mirren, are portrayed in exquisite detail. The story captures the complexities of turn of the century Vienna – a potent mix of cosmopolitanism, late Empire vainglory, and mainstream political Anti-Semitism than is commonly remembered (particularly compared to Germany). In no small irony, the Academy of Fine Arts that rejected Hitler as an artist is diagonally across a small park from where Altmann lived.