A Year Ago in Winter

A Year Ago in Winter (German: Im Winter ein Jahr) is a 2008 German drama film directed by Caroline Link. It is based on the novel Aftermath by American author Scott Campbell, tellings the story of a "complicated family situation". The painting featured in the film was made by the Munich artist Florian Sussmayr. The film score is composed by Niki Reiser.

A Year Ago in Winter
Directed byCaroline Link
Produced byRobert W. Cort
Scarlett Lacey
Martin Moszkowicz
Oliver Nommsen
Uschi Reich
Written byCaroline Link
Based onAftermath
by Scott Campbell
Music byNiki Reiser
CinematographyBella Halben
Edited byPatricia Rommel
Release date
  • 9 September 2008 (2008-09-09) (Toronto International Film Festival)
Running time
152 minutes

The film was premiered at the 2008 Toronto International Film Festival, and its theatrical release was on 13 November 2008.[1]



The Munich-based interior designer, Eliane, commissions the painter, Max Hollander, to draw portraits of her children, Alexander and Lilly. Eliane wants it as a memorial of Alexander, who took his life about a year before. She provides pictures and videos of him for the painter. She wants Lilli to sit for a double portrait, but she is disgusted by the idea to have her dead brother on the wall "for decoration". Unlike her mother, she is not disciplined and loses her leading role at the Theatre Academy because of disputes with her teacher. She tries unsuccessfully to find closeness and intimacy in her relationship with the artist Aldo.

At the sessions with Max, Lilli is reserved at first whereas he seeks to look behind her facade and capture her character in the painting. He recognizes the profound relationship between the siblings and understands Lilli's realm of feelings better and better. Thereby he also is able to connect to the personal losses in his own history. The relationship between painter and model deepens, and they trust each other more and more.

The resulting portrait does not meet Eliane's expectations, but breaks her reservations regarding Lilly. She is able to begin to cope with the death of her son. Lilly accepts that she will not figure out the reason of her brother's suicide, and is then able to forgive him.


The film deals with the processing of a family catastrophy and the grief it causes. The story does not aim to resolve the mystery of the suicide, but concentrates on the development of Lilly, a process triggered by the painter. It does not show the typical affair between an artist and his model, but "eine behutsam in Halbschritten der Zuneigung erzählte Geschichte von tröstlicher Nähe, die beiden guttut" ("gently told, a history of half-steps of affection, of a comforting closeness that is good for both). The completed portrat captures the past, but on the other hands points to a future for which Lilly is ready now.


Caroline Herfurth was awarded with the Bavarian Film Award for "Beste Nachwuchsschauspielerin" (best upcoming actress), and the Preis der deutschen Filmkritik. The film was nominated for the Deutscher Filmpreis in the categories Bester Spielfilm (best feature), Bester Hauptdarsteller (best main actor) and Bester Schnitt (best editing). Film composer Niki Reiser was awarded the prize.


  1. Bock, Hans-Michael; Bergfelder, Tim (1 October 2009). The Concise CineGraph: Encyclopaedia of German Cinema. Berghahn Books. p. 183. ISBN 978-1-57181-655-9. Retrieved 24 July 2012.

Further reading

  • Schwartz, Dennis (May 18, 2013). "A Year Ago in Winter". Ozus' World Movie Reviews. Review by a prolific web film critic.
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