I am really having a blast participating in the period drama challenge because I am making the time to be still to watch some movies that I have been meaning to watch fo quite some time. Early yesterday morning I streamed The Agony and The Ecstasy on Netflix. I really enjoyed watching this movie. All of the period movies that I have been watching over the past several days keeps making me wonder why we no longer get to see great epic movies anymore. Well, there is The Hobbit, but instead of it having an intermission Peter Jackson stretched it to two and then three separate movies. I would have preferred an intermission to get it all over with.
Anyway, The Agony and The Ecstasy is based on part of Irving Stone’s book of the same name. The movie focuses on the conflicts between Pope Julius II and Michelangelo.
Charlton Heston plays Michelangelo and Rex Harrison plays Pope Julius II. Michelangelo does not consider himself a painter and prefers sculpting using marble. Pope Julius commands Michelangelo to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. After much resistance Michelangelo decides to accept the commission to paint the ceiling, however, he does not like the Pope’s ideas of what should be painted on each panel. Michelangelo is inspired to paint the story of creation in the book of Genesis.
I have mixed feelings about Charlton Heston’s portrayal of Michelangelo. The character comes off as very argumentative, stubborn, no respect for authority and just a general pain in the ass. I can understand wanting to remain true to yourself, but being normally difficult to deal with and an ornery cuss is something else entirely. Was Michelangelo really like that? I did not like Michelangelo much in this portrayal even though he was a great artist.
For most of this film Michelangelo looks quite scruffy, dirty and sweaty.
I loved the beginning of the film where a narrator provides you with a brief biography on Michelangelo. Examples of Michelangelo’s sculptures are shown during the narration. It is like watching a segment of the Biography channel before the movie starts.
I always wondered about the process of painting frescoes on a ceiling and this movie showcases that. I found it very interesting and it was actually my favorites parts of the entire movie. I have a lot of respect for fresco painters. You have to finish painting before the plaster dries and that was probably extra challenging for Michelangelo working on a ceiling and on your back. You also have to not have a fear of heights. I love art and enjoyed taking art history classes when I was in school I found myself more interested in the process of painting the ceiling of the Sistine chapel than the conflicts between Michelangelo and Pope Julius.
I loved the element of the intermission half way through so that you are not overwhelmed. This element is used in Gone With The Wind and Romeo and Juliet. I am not thrilled about having to wait an entire year to see the rest of a movie.
By today’s standards The Agony and The Ecstasy may seem a bit dull and old, but I think it holds up pretty darned well. I enjoyed this much more than I did The Hobbit.