Impressive in scope if unremarkable in style, The Rape of Europa provides a chronology of World War II as it was experienced by "David," "Mona Lisa," and other artistic treasures the Nazis plundered.
Though dryly executed and narrated by a staid Joan Allen, the documentary — which was featured at the Cleveland International Film Festival in March — is an excellent survey of the techniques employed by the Third Reich to not just demoralize but dehistoricize the countries it invaded. The fact that Hitler was an avid art collector (and a bitter art-school reject) made the looting not only professionally but personally rewarding.
Amassing a broad spectrum of interviewees, from the niece of Adele Bloch-Bauer, the subject of Klimt's stolen "gold portrait," to former "Monument Men" (Allied soldiers charged with guarding and recovering treasures), the directors move through the war, invasion by invasion, detailing the frantic measures each country undertook to protect its artistic heritage. With thousands of artworks still missing today and ongoing disputes about rights and restorations, this is not only a vital glimpse at an overlooked aspect of the war but also a reminder of its enduring legacies.