Gottfried Helnwein & The Dreaming Child

“The world is a haunted house and Helnwein is our tour guide through it”   — Sean Penn

The world premiere of a controversial Israeli opera is the backdrop for this riveting behind-the-scenes look at the creative process. Commissioned by the Israeli Opera for its 25th anniversary season, The Child Dreams is abstractly inspired by the plight of Jewish refugees and based on the work of Hanoch Levin, widely regarded as Israel’s greatest playwright. The bold costume and set design for this startling new production falls to Austrian artist Gottfried Helnwein, known for provocative portraits of wounded children. Translating Helnwien’s graphic images and acrobatic choreography for stage proves artistically and technically challenging, and conflict erupts between Helnwein and the opera company over a crucial casting decision. 

GOTTFRIED HELNWEIN AND THE DREAMING CHILD is both a visual feast and landmark union of artistic titans Levin and Helnwein, both concerned with the theme of childhood innocence betrayed.

The opera premiered at the Israeli Opera in Tel-Aviv, January 2010.  It is now distributed by First Run Features, and will soon be available through Amazon and Netflix.

“Helnwein’s vision is revealed as grand and arresting. The film rightly
admires Helnwein’s work and serves it best when just showing it.”
-Village Voice
“Wherein Austrian artist Heinwein—known for paintings depicting innocent children—figuratively
meets his artistic mirror image when he designs sets for an opera based on late Israeli playwright
Hanoch Levin’s The Child Dreams. Director Lisa Kirk Colburn’s fascinating
documentary explores the painful intersection of art, politics and historical amnesia.
Three bonus deleted scenes include an interesting discussion between
artist and visitor to his exhibition about Austrian complicity in the Holocaust.”
-Static Multimedia/Kevin Filipski
“Gottfried Helnwein and the Dreaming Child is both a visual feast and
landmark union of artistic titans Levin and Helnwein, both concerned with
the theme of childhood innocence betrayed.”
-Atlanta Jewish Film Festival
“Helnwein’s realization of the final scene takes the breath away.”
-Toronto Star
“Helnwein’s eternal theme, inspired by the Holocaust,
is children and their violated innocence.”
-New York Times
“The sets and costumes designed by the artist are indeed visually
impressive, especially a haunting image of children suspended over
the stage like ascending angels.”
-The Hollywood Reporter
“What we are allowed to see of the actual production is impressive indeed,
in terms of set design, color, lighting and dramatic impact. Helnwein pulls
off a fourth-act coup de theatre, staging Levin’s idea of a pile of dead
children as a more viscerally exciting image of suspended bodies, like
barely alive puppets, which is quite breathtaking.”
“One of the great things about this documentary is that, while many out there
might be familiar with Helnwein’s artwork or installations, they may not be
familiar with where his ideas come from, or what it’s like when he works.
In that way, the film is a wonderful look at a stunning contemporary artist.”
-Film Threat









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