The Woodmans (C. Scott Willis, 2010)

| May 20, 2012

Reviewed by Mary Schuler DeWitt

The Woodmans is an independent film about a family of artists. Beth is an established sculptor, George is a painter and photographer, and their son Charly is an electronic artist. The movie centers around their life as artists and exhibits their artistic works to the audience.

It also focuses on the loss of Francesca Woodman (daughter of Beth and George and sister of Charly) who was a photo-grapher and whose works are now becoming increasingly significant. Unfortunately, Francesca’s life was cut short in 1981 when she committed suicide by jumping out the window of her studio in New York City at the young age of 22.

The film features interviews with Beth, George, and Charly that help the viewer gain a sense of what it means to be an artist producing art as a living.  Beth and George emphasize that they raised their children in an artistic environment. Beth is shown constantly creating her works of pottery. In one scene she speaks about expecting her first child while rolling a ball of clay – drawing the parallel between making art and having children, showing the importance of both for Beth. Then there is George, who was known as a painter but over time became more interested in photography, perhaps motivated by his mourning of Francesca.. Whether or not art has a genetic component remains questionable, but it is clear that, based on Beth and George’s passion for art, Francesca and Charly both grew up with a great knowledge of art and a respect for the trade.

As the film progresses, the audience follows the life of Francesca from her childhood up to her suicide. According to family and close friends she was prone to what seemed like anxiety and depression which may have contributed to her taking her own life. At the time of her death many did not realize the contribution her black anda white portraiture would make to the art world. She is considered by many to have been an artistic prodigy. Prior to her death she was working on a publication titled, Some Disordered Interior Geometries (see Google Images under that title).

The film proves that life does go on and that, no matter how painful, one must make the best out of the tragedy with what one was given.