Las Vegas, NV
Directed by Wim Wenders
Written by David Self
Music by Ry Cooder
Natalie Portman as Hedwig Keisler/Hedy Lamarr
Nastassja Kinski as Hedy Lamarr
Ulrich Muhe as Fritz Mandl
Ben Chaplin as George Antheil
Thomas Bo Larsen as Adolph Hitler
Bob Gunton as Louis B. Mayer
Clotilde Courau as the Maid
Tagline: "Made up to break up."
Synopsis: France-1937, after pawning her wedding ring, the lonesome Hedwig Keisler (Natalie Portman) auditions for small plays but a chance encounter with movie mogul Louis B. Mayer (Bob Gunton) became her big break. At his insistence, she would now be known as Hedy Lamarr, the star of such films as Algiers, Boom Town, The Great Zigfield and DeMille's Samson & Delilah. Hedwig, like many, made bad choices, turning down Oscar-winning films such as Gaslight and Casablanca for dumbed-down comedies like My Favorite Spy. She was in a state of limbo. A string of husbands came and went. The only headlines she would grasp now would be that of shoplifting. Though not all was lost for Hedy as she formed a close bond with her neighbor, German-born avante-garde composer/inventor George Antheil (Ben Chaplin). She had finally found someone to relate to and be joyful with. His brazen musical talents sparked her muse. They had big plans for the world but a tortured past halted any advances he would make, but together they would develop the frequency hopper that made it harder for enemies to detect radio-guided torpedos. Though their invention was not implemented until the Cuban missile crises of the 60's, it laid as the basis for wireless phones.
Orlando, Florida-2000, Hedy's (Nastassja Kinski) legacy had now been cemented with a Hollywood star on the Walk of Fame, numerous awards from the science world and a biographer to document her life. Once the "Most Beautiful Woman In Films" now the "Woman of Science", with all her critical acclaim still battled the demons of her past that plagued her nightmares. How could she face god knowing she had slept with the devil. As she lay dying, her confession would be her salvation.
Austria-1933, the infamous actress of the x-rated Czechoslovakian film "Ecstasy" steps to the alter to marry the wealthy, older, arms manufacturer and fascist, Fritz Mandl (Ulrich Muhe). Little did young Hedwig Kiesler (Natalie Portman) know, he was as much of a tryant as the leaders he supported; never one to hold back a raised hand or not force himself upon her at his leisure. He even went so far as to purchasing every copy of her notorious film, while keeping her locked away in his castle, where his French maid (Clotilde Courau) kept an ever watchful eye on her. Otherwise, at his side at all times, he often took her to his manufacturing plant where, Hedwig, a closet-math genius learned all she could of the art of weapons manufacturing. She honed the craft and the business, since her newfound acting career laid halt to her husband's insecurities. The weapons plant wasn't the only place Fritz would take her. To obtain key support in business and in society, Fritz hobnobbed with the likes of Adolf Hitler (Thomas Bo Larsen). His advances had made her stomach churn. She was a prisoner in her own marriage. She would close her eyes, and let the powerful man of Germany, wreak himself upon her body. And so the parties raved on. But they had taken it's toll on young Hedwig. Convincing Fritz to letting her wear all her expensive jewelry to attend the next gala held at the fortress he called a castle, she would plot her getaway. Their eyes watched over her like hawks but perfect-timing led to her escape as she slipped three sleeping pills into the maid's nightly java and her husband's wine glass. She was free from the prostitution, free from the evil. She had to make things right.
Hollywood, California-1942, the glamorous leading lady of MGM studios, Hedy Lamarr (Natalie Portman) holds an extravagant fund-raiser where she is surrounded by all of Hollywood and their wallets. She would clear 7 million dollars in this single evening by selling war bonds to support the fight against the Germans. So much money, and so many people...she was definitely one of a kind.
What the Press Will Say?: Acclaimed German director, Wim Wenders with such films under his belt as the influential "Wings of Desire" and "Paris, Texas", pays homage to one of Austria's most celebrated and misunderstood icons of all time, actress Hedy Lamarr. This fascinating look into a person, whose scars she kept as a reminder to make more of herself. To make more than the evils that tried to define her. Wenders' use of black and white film creates much depth and style. A scene that will be forever remembered is Hedy's sly and thrilling escape from the clutches of her husband at the castle Schwarzenau. A sort of Hitchcockian moment in the film. Tracking Hedy's ever movement, we feel as if we are wandering through a video game, not knowing what monster may lay in wait, with a time clock ticking.
As the young Hedy Lamarr, Natalie Portman, in a maturing performance defines assassinated beauty. With most of her dialogue in German, she brings out her innermost Lolita as something beautiful, yet dare not touch. But she is touched and she is taken and abused. Those bruises hurt even more as we discover her brilliance and potential as she lays the groundwork for her escape from the clutches of evil men such as her husband Fritz Mandl, played by the fearless German actor, Ulrich Muhe (The Lives of Others, Funny Games) and of course Thomas Bo Larsen's (The Celebration) Adolf Hitler. Larsen's Hitler is spooky and unpredictable as a man at the height of power, completely insecure and violent. They are attracted to Hedy through her beauty, but are disgusted with her at the same time. They shower her with money, as if it were mere paper made out of a broken tree. When she escapes, the audience does as well. To a new light and a new life. She is the starlet of her era but like most stars, she falls from the sky. Her undying and uncompromising quest to be righteous is backed with her genius from selling millions of dollars of war bonds in WWII, as well as her crowning achievement of laying the groundwork for the invention of the wireless telephone. Ben Chaplin as her eccentric neighbor helps her create what will change the way of life as we know it today. Their affair is quite delicate with a cautious Hedy finally letting love in, and a true friendship that lasted till the ages. A truly admirable lost art. Natassja Kinski teams up with Wenders for the second time to play the elder Hedy who is bittersweet about receiving her acclamations and recognition, all the while holding that everlasting skeleton in her closet; the affair with Hitler filled with empty kisses, and her loveless slavery of a marriage. Her recognition to science and life help her to confess her sins of the past. She beats herself up, not for the pain of what they did to her, but because she didn't know how to fight back.
Writer David Self's (Road to Perdition) script resonates Hedy's story through the masses. She faltered yet had quite a way about her. Unselfish, proactive and provocative, full of sorrow, yet so pessimistic. There were few people like her in show business. "Hedy" is a remarkable tribute to those who are more than just actors.
This bait is dedicated to Paul Newman (1925-2008).
Best Director - Wim Wenders
Best Actor - Ulrich Muhe
Best Actress - Natalie Portman
Best Supporting Actor - Thomas Bo Larsen
Best Supporting Actor - Ben Chaplin
Best Supporting Actress - Nastassja Kinski
Best Original Screenplay - David Self