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The Agony and the Ecstasy (1965)

Approved | | Biography, Drama, History | 7 October 1965 (USA)
The biographical story of Michelangelo's troubles while painting the Sistine Chapel at the urging of Pope Julius II.

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(based on the novel: "The Agony and the Ecstasy" by), (screen story and screenplay)
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Nominated for 5 Oscars. Another 3 wins & 4 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
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...
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Alberto Lupo ...
Francesco Maria della Rovere, duke of Urbino
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Paris De Grassis
John Stacy ...
Sangallo
...
Foreman
...
Woman
...
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Storyline

Pope Julius is eager to leave behind works by which he will be remembered. To this end he cajoles Michelangelo into painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. When not on the battlefield uniting Italy, the Pope nags Michelangelo to speed up his painful work on the frescoes. Written by Ed Stephan <stephan@cc.wwu.edu>

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From the age of magnificence comes a new magnificence in motion pictures See more »


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Approved | See all certifications »

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Release Date:

7 October 1965 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Irving Stone's The Agony and the Ecstasy  »

Box Office

Budget:

$10,000,000 (estimated)
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(Westrex Recording System) (70 mm prints)| (35 mm prints)

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2.20 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The film lost eight million dollars worldwide. See more »

Goofs

During most of his reign, HH Julius II wore a beard; however, apparently because of Harrison's preference, the Pope is clean shaven through the entire movie. See more »

Quotes

Michelangelo: I'm a Florentine and a Christian... painting in this century. They were Greeks and pagans living in theirs. Pagans? Christians? An artist should be above such distinction. And a cardinal, especially one who pretends to understand art... should be above such foolishness. I'll tell you what stands between us and the Greeks. Two thousand years of human suffering stands between us! Christ on His Cross stands between us. And this difference is what I will express in my paintings. Just as I'll paint ...
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Connections

Referenced in Northern Exposure: Mite Makes Right (1994) See more »

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User Reviews

They don't come much more epic than this
4 August 2002 | by See all my reviews

When you think about it, making a movie about artistry is pretty hard. Painting, writing, sculpting, music, whatever, it's not easy to make the act very interesting--painting is painstaking, it takes a long time. But in this movie, they succeed. Not just making a movie, but making an epic, a massive movie out of an act of creation, is a tough thing to do. But they really do succeed. At the heart of the movie isn't really the act of creation, or the passion for it, or even the ceiling itself--it's the adversarial relationship between Rex Harrison (Pope Julius II) and Charlton Heston (Michaelangelo).

It's certainly not that passion and creation are not here, it's just that they enrich the story about two men and their relationship. When Julius comes into the chapel in the middle of the night, and Michaelangelo is invariably there, there's a bond, even with silent incipient tension.

Heston is of course the only person for this role, as epics go, he's the best. For some reason he manages not to be overcome by the massive scale of these sorts of movies--something that happens to almost everyone else (look at Sinatra and Cary Grant in "the Pride and the Passion", they are totally lost in the grande scale, and they're the incomparable Grant and the larger than life Sinatra, not much more to be said there). Heston makes a solid tortured artist and Rex Harrison is quite wonderful as the Pope. He communicates the strength and intelligence of a Pope who loves art but must go to battle to preserve all that he holds dear. There's a scene when the Pope wants people to see the half completed chapel, since he has grown impatient with the time and when Michaelangelo bitterly objects, Harrison explodes with anger--extremely effective. When Harrison passed, it was truly a loss to movies.

There are flaws, no question, and it's not Heston's best work, course, once you've done Ben Hur and the Ten Commandments, nothing else is going to be your best work. The subplot with the sort of love interest is pretty silly, and it goes on a bit too long. The earnestness of the faith in the church, the sincerity of Heston when he says "Holiness" to the pope, a man that drives him crazy, is poignant. His faith is deep, almost as if he derives his love of art from a love of God. There are even some nice moments of levity as when a spattered Michaelangelo spits out a gob of paint and it lands near a watching Julius; or when the Pope creates a cardinal out of teen for payment in order to keep up the painting.

When it comes to big movies, this definitely lays with a handful of others that will never be surpassed--Titanic tried to be this kind of movie, and proves that even with $200 million and all the nifty gizmos of the modern age, it's very difficult to do; c'mon, Rex Harrison and Charlton Heston compared to Leo DeCaprio and Billy Zane--not much of a contest there.

See the movie, forgive it its flaws and appreciate the richness and nuance of the relationship between Pope and Artist.


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