HomeExplainers'Charlotte' Ending, Explained: Why Did Charlotte Salomon Poison Her Grandfather?

‘Charlotte’ Ending, Explained: Why Did Charlotte Salomon Poison Her Grandfather?

Tahir Rana and Eric Warin came up with their version of this animated feature, “Charlotte,” where they describe the life of the German Jewish painter Charlotte Salomon. This movie features the likes of Keira Knightley, Marion Cotillard (French Charlotte), Brenda Blethyn, Mark Strong, and many more voice artists. This animated feature talks about the struggle of Jewish artists in the era of Hitler. The mess he created not only in Germany but all over the world made people suffer, especially the Jews. It is a sublime narration of the original events in the artist’s life. A tremendous amount of pain went through her that she described through her thousand paintings, considered the first ever graphic novel in the world.

Spoilers Ahead


What Happens In The Animated Film?

Since the beginning, Charlotte Salomon has nurtured her interest in painting. Her mother committed suicide, so her father married an opera singer, Paula Lindberg. Paula was German by birth, so for some time, it was safe for Charlotte’s family to stay in Germany. Paula used to sing in the opera, and in 1933, when she was performing in Berlin, some German soldiers marched into the theater. That was the first time Charlotte felt threatened, as did her family. But, Charlotte’s grandfather was too proud to leave Germany, as it was their homeland. Five weeks after that incident, Charlotte met with Ottilie Moore in the “Musei Vaticani” (Vatican Museums in Italy), an independent woman from New York. She offered Charlotte and her grandparents the opportunity to live with her, as she was convinced that Charlotte had brilliant abilities as an artist. Charlotte returned to Germany and tried to get into the Academy of Fine Arts. While Paula was trying to make her a fashion designer, she knew nothing about Charlotte’s plans. When Paula came to know about Charlotte getting admitted to the Academy of Fine Arts, she was concerned about her future. She knew that in these times of crisis, it was tough for an artist to achieve something meaningful in life. During this time, Charlotte met Alfred Wolfsohn. He showed a vivid interest in her paintings and wanted her to illustrate a book he wrote about his war experiences. Charlotte’s identity was revealed soon, and the Academy of Fine Arts disallowed her.

Charlotte Salomon had to go back to Ottilie More to live with her grandparents as the situation in Germany degraded gradually. She met Alexander there and grew to like him. Knowing that her grandfather wanted to go away from that place. It was hard for Charlotte, but she couldn’t leave her family behind, as she had already left her parents in Germany. In 1940, Charlotte’s grandmother committed suicide and learned about the absurdities running in her family. Everyone, including her mother, her mother’s sister, and every woman in the family, had committed suicide. It was like a nightmare for Charlotte, and she ran away to embrace the love of her life, Alexander. She started living there with him but soon received a letter from her grandfather. She was allowed to leave Germany to take care of her grandparents. So her grandfather threatened that he would call the police if she didn’t obey. Ottilie decided to go to America with all the orphan kids under her surveillance. Charlotte and Alexander stayed back, and after a while, Charlotte visited her grandfather. Her grandfather never respected her or took her paintings seriously, so after a hard fight within, she poisoned him to death. Finally, Charlotte and Alexander decided to get married. She was pregnant with a child when German soldiers captured the couple. Charlotte’s struggle finally ended as she was killed on October 10th, 1943.


Why Were Some Paintings Highlighted The Most?

Of all the paintings, a few had significant value in Charlotte’s life. She said that whatever she had painted so far was somehow connected with her life. She remembered pictures, images that she did not recognize until she painted them, and some that never happened.

Charlotte Salomon was asked to illustrate the war book of Alfred Wolfsohn. She felt love for the first time in her life. She was recently denied access to the Academy of Fine Arts and made love with Wolfsohn the following day. Emotions started to flow and she started illustrating the war book. The tone was not quite blood red, but of old blood. Blood that is preserved for a more extended period in a blotting paper. It was her idea to construct the memories of the war. A slight shade of tears from the soldiers, the marching of the soldiers, fear that resides within the eyes of the soldiers, everything was painted with the same color tone.

Leaving home always affects people. When Charlotte returned to her grandparents in America, leaving her parents in Germany, she was lost. She had recently suffered heartbreak as she learned about Alfred’s lies. She saw her father being tortured by a German soldier for being a Jew. Every dream of hers was shattered into pieces. So she painted a picture of Germany. She showed windows filled with Nazi flags; soldiers surrounding and kicking a woman, and people marching along powerlessly. The image portrayed the most authentic essence of then-Germany and how difficult it was for the people there.

Charlotte learned about the suicide tradition in her family. She poisoned her grandfather, who never respected or loved her. She came back to Alexander and decided to settle down for the first time in her life. Then the memories somehow appeared to her, and she painted the women in her family and their whole generation. Mothers embrace their daughters in bed, leaving them to find a place in heaven. There’s also an angel carrying a message to their window.

In the final highlighted picture, Charlotte Salomon drew several women who were painting together. The picture establishes her thoughts quite precisely about how she felt being a woman in the world of chaos. She probably wished to have a daughter who would become a painter just like her. She recently got pregnant with Alexander and knew she would leave someone behind even if she died.


Why Did Charlotte Poison Her Grandfather?

Charlotte Salomon was constantly disrespected and hated by her grandfather. Her grandfather, Ludwig Grunwald, was a proud doctor in Germany. Since Hitler took over, the Jews were gradually captured and tortured. He was too proud to leave Germany, but since his wife was ill, he had to leave for her good. He knew about the suicidal tendencies that runs through the family. We can assume that he never really hated Charlotte; he hated that she would commit suicide just like the rest. He took her as a stubborn and selfish girl who cared for no one except her ambitions. But, for Charlotte, it was becoming unbearable. She left her painting to care for her grandfather, who, in return, only abused her. He even insulted her paintings and always complained about her independent nature. Charlotte finally hoped to settle down with Alexander, but could not because of her grandfather. She had to leave her dreams, her lover, everything for this insulting old man. So, she decided to break these shackles once and for all. She wanted to be free. The world never agreed with her on this, and neither did her grandfather. So, she poisoned her grandfather and left in peace.


Why Did Charlotte Hurriedly Finish Her Paintings?

After “Loving Vincent,” this is another movie that talks about an artist’s struggle. Charlotte Salomon was moved by her calling. She was ready to take down the world but finally submitted to her family. Every woman in her family committed suicide, but Charlotte was the first among them who was independent. She never grew up with the idea of suicide inside her until her grandfather told her about the unfortunate tradition. So, there can be two reasons for her hurriedly finishing the paintings. One was that a fear of taking her own life rose within, and she thought she might not have enough time. The other thing was that Alexander confessed before the marriage council about him being a Jew, so Charlotte knew they didn’t have much time. Soon, the Germans would find out about them and capture them. We think that the second one is a more probable reason why Charlotte was in a hurry. For an independent woman like her, the idea of committing suicide while pregnant somehow feels wrong.


Final Words

We must thank the creators who brought the story to life. Artists are still struggling throughout the world. These stories can be inspirational to all of them. The screenplay was smooth. Some might argue that the paintings could have been synchronized more with her life, but the purpose was fulfilled between the chapters of her life. The last frame is one of the purest forms of establishing Charlotte Salomon’s tragedy. She only wanted to live a peaceful life while painting her thoughts. Instead, she was captured, tortured, and killed. A heavy flow of emotions runs through the sound of the breeze and the fading noise of the vehicle. Charlotte’s struggle ended with her death, and now her mind rests in her favorite place.


“Charlotte” is an Animation Biopic film directed by Tahir Rana and Éric Warin.

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Shovan Roy
Shovan Roy
Shovan Roy is a creative content writer. Formerly he used to write film reviews on an international film festival website named Beyond the Curve International Film Festival. He also interviewed global directors. He also interviewed one of the characters from the show 'Trailer Park Boys', Mr. Bernard Robichaud, platformed in Netflix. Shovan tends to write through the third person narrative and he loves to do psychoanalysis. He can't say that he has mastered it but that is some sort of hobby of his. Film is a platform where he loves to spend most of his time learning.

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