Tugendhat is a legendary word in modern design; the name refers to the seminal house created by the German architect Mies van der Rohe for the Tugendhat family outside Brno in the Czech Republic in 1930. This beautiful and reflective  documentary acknowledges the house as a modernist monument but is more absorbed by its role as catalyst for human events in the years after its construction – interactions which reflect on the wider travails of 20th century European history.

Intelligently interweaving the restoration of the house (stripping back paint layers to old surfaces) and searing interviews with surviving Tugendhat siblings, it slowly unpicks family truths, from the Shangri-La of childhood, through exile (for being Jewish in the wrong place and time) to uncertain attempts at remaking the dream elsewhere. The most beautiful words are left to the ordinary Czechs with spinal injuries who lived there as children under Communism, and who simply revered its light, space and architecture as a background to their emerging lives – underscoring the film’s theme about the relationship between people and the hard and complex nature of brilliant things.

Niall McCullough

Director: Dieter Reifarth
Year: 2013
Country of Origin: Germany
Duration: 116 minutes