22 February 2009
I recently spoke to several of my friends, one a film buff and the others folks who would love the story told here, and none of them had seen this film, much less read the book. Given what I knew about who I was talkin' to, I was quite surprised.
The Agony and the Ecstasy is based on one segment of Irving Stone's biographical novel of the same name. This superb film tells the story of the tumultuous relationship between Michelangelo Buonarroti and Pope Julius II over the painting of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican.
I have to admit, seeing Rex Harrison in a role where he quite effectively, as Pope Julius to Heston's Michelangelo, puts Charlton Heston in his place is, well, delicious. Heston was playing so many God-like roles in those days, it's good to see someone with the authority to put such a gigantic screen presence in his place.
But more importantly, the history of the now renovated Sistine Chapel ceiling, one of the greatest art accomplishments of the Italian Renaissance, is fundamentally important. It gives the viewer substantial insight into the ever difficult relationship between a great artist and a patron he (or she) must rely on to continue working.
In short, see this film. It is an essential for anyone interested in the nuts and bolts of how great art gets made.