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The story of Benvenuto Cellini (1500 - 1571), a soldier and one of the most important craftsmen and artists of Renaissance Italy whose life was marked by many achievements and adventures, but also crimes.
Max von Sydow,
Testimony would be a firm and undoubted entry on my list of the ten greatest films ever made.
I'm not really interested in the debate over whether this movie is a 'true' portrayal of the composer. I'm only really considering it as a piece of cinematic art. From that point of view, it is a masterpiece, a classic. It's not a traditional movie. It is like a completely different, fresh approach. It is closer to masterpieces like 'Nosferatu' or 'the Cabinet of Dr. Caligari' than to any modern film. In some ways it is like an extended video clip - a montage of narration, sight and sound. It leaves unforgettable images on the mind.
Everything about this movie is first class. It is a very contrasty, noir B&W movie which fully utilises the artistic possibilities of that medium. I won't detail the greatest images, because that would spoil it. But there are many very powerful moments that are unforgettable and loaded with meaning. The narration and script are masterly. The powerful music of Shostakovitch is completely integrated. That music is difficult and complex, and to reveal it to the viewer and to make the viewer love it is a wonderful feat. The acting is first class, equal to the best ever seen on screen. Kingsley's performance as Shostakovitch is extraordinary. Terence Rigby, who I think of as a ham actor but whose presence in a movie is often very powerful, conveys silent menace as Stalin. Images, sound and acting can scarcely be bettered.
This movie is about a true genius and artist living at a time when the image and cult of one man totally dominates the whole of society and where any question over loyalty to that figure is deadly. But ultimately this movie is only about itself. It's not really about Shostakovitch any more than a Caravaggio is a comment on society. The question is whether it completely grips for its whole length. It does.
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