Hilma af Klint was a Swedish artist whose gender and spiritual practices kept her from being recognized as the inventor of abstract art. She painted throughout her long life (1862-1944) despite the lack of encouragement from the art world at large, and left behind a massive body of work. That work was put in storage upon her death, and resurfaced in 1964. Slowly her reputation grew over the next decades until, finally, a blockbuster exhibition at the Guggenheim in 2019 brought her to the forefront of art history, and she has displaced Kandinsky as the first abstract artist.
“Hilma” the narrative film shows us the events and people who influenced the artist, and reveals the personal side of her Bohemian life. The daughter of a celebrated naval family with a great name, but very little means, af Klint’s artistic path was always restricted, by both her gender and her social standing. Her fascination with Madame Blavatsky and the fashionable Theosophic Movement connected her to her art school friends, a female collective she named “The Five.”
It is through this close knit group that af Klint’s breakthroughs are born, and it is here that a majority of the film is focused. The camera follows Hilma as her artistic eye opens, but also gives more credit to her collaborators than she did in life. It is fascinating to see how The Five incorporate spiritualistism into their art practice, and a delight to see the beauty that Hilma and her friends put in the world, a world they create outside the normal conventions of their time. Though heartbreaking to watch, the aging Hilma, rejected by her male relatives, and her hero Rudolph Steiner, works tirelessly to find a home for her paintings in a world that does not understand them. All of this is told through a camera that loves the landscapes, buildings, and people of her homeland, with small experimental flairs that bring attention to the history behind the art.
Long fascinated with the legend of this Theosophic artist, Swedish director Lasse Hallström, together with his wife Lena Olin (who plays Hilma later in life) and daughter Tora Hallström (who plays Hilma the Younger), have brought her to life. Hallström is a Swedish pop treasure on his own, having made the iconic music videos of Swedish supergroup ABBA. His filmography is full of heartfelt, appealing, and well-acted films like “My Life as a Dog,” “Chocolat,” and “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape,” and this family-made project lives up to the standards set by those films. But it does not surpass them, which is unfortunate for a subject as interesting and powerful as af Klint.
Biopics often follow a certain formula. A life is established onscreen with an experience revisited at the end of the film, an older version of our subject remembers back to their childhood. Milestones mark the passages of time; the death of loved ones, the life-defining arguments, the passionate love and betrayals along the way, with a peppering of historical players to make the viewer say ‘oh yes, I know them.” “Hilma” follows this formula, rather prettily, and is a nice introduction to the artist and the world she inhabits. Hallström is a classicist and that makes for a nice Sunday watch. But af Klint was an artist who painted for the future, and her life is sure to one day be illuminated by a director who will create for the future too. This safe biopic is a primer on the direction and ideas behind af Klint’s work. It is exponentially better when viewed in conjunction with the 2019 documentary “Beyond the Visible – Hilma af Klint” (streaming on the Criterion Channel and Kanopy). Both are even better if you can see her work in person. Alas, that highly sought after, and now revered body of work will not be in Louisville any time soon though!
Friday, April 21, 6 p.m.
Saturday, April 22, 3 p.m. & 6 p.m.
Sunday, April 23, 3 p.m.
$12 | $8 Speed members
“Keeping Secrets Will
There will be, for one night only, and only in Louisville, an immersive music and film presentation designed to recalibrate your relationship to both. Beloved musician Will Oldham and film artist Ryan Daly are exploring the concept of listening to music as a narrative experience. We go to see movies. Can we go to hear records?
We the audience are invited to listen to Bonnie Prince Billy’s newest record Keeping Secrets Will Destroy You for the first time in a cinema setting, with the music accompanied by the visuals of Daly, who has created visuals for Wax Fang, Damo Suziki, Ritchie White Orchestra, Sapat, and many more bands. For this happening, Daly will draw upon his vast 16mm archive to assemble an original work set to the recording. In this way, this event is the opposite of a live score, wherein the band plays music to accompany a film. Instead we will see film remixed to music, using the theatre setting to create a collective experience, and listening to long form music in a dynamic and immersive way.
Recorded in the winter of 2022-2023 by Nick Roeder, KSWDY features guest artists Sara Callaway, Dave Howard, Dane Waters, Kendall Carter, and Drew Miller. Doors open at 6 p.m., with live music from Louisville Academy of Music students at 6:30 p.m., prior to the headlining experience at 7 p.m., and a discussion to follow. Proceeds benefit LAM’s need-based scholarship fund.
Will Oldham and Ryan Daly
Thursday, April 20, 7 p.m.