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The film has many good points. The lovely Valentina Cervi, who plays Artemisia, makes a ravishing heroine. Like another recent film about a great 17th century artist, "Girl with a Pearl Earring", it is visually beautiful and tries to capture the look of the paintings of the era. Artemisia, like many Italian painters of the early 1600s, was greatly influenced by the example of Caravaggio, especially his use of chiaroscuro, the contrast of light and dark, in order to heighten a picture's visual, dramatic and emotional impact. Some of the interior scenes in the film are clearly intended to imitate this style of painting, but director Agnes Merlet also seems to have been influenced by other artists and other artistic genres of the period, notably its still lives and landscapes. The scenes by the coast seem to have been modelled upon 17th century Dutch seascapes.
Like a number of other reviewers, however, I was disturbed by the way in which the film dealt with the facts of Artemisia's life. Now it is common for films about real historical events to take liberties with the truth, and the result is not automatically a bad or dishonest film. "Girl with a Pearl Earring", for example, which I consider to be one of the greatest films of the current decade, introduces an entirely fictitious episode into the life of a real historical figure, the painter Vermeer. It does so, however, in the service of a greater truth, in order to make some important points about artistic creativity, about social class and about friendship between men and women.
"Artemisia", by contrast, distorts the facts of its subject's life in the service of a greater falsehood. In real life Tassi was a despicable character who attempted to kill his wife, committed incest with his sister-in-law and raped a number of women; he was undoubtedly guilty of the rape of Artemisia. In the film, however, he and Artemisia are lovers, and the sex between them is purely consensual. Tassi is depicted as the victim of false accusations brought by Artemisia's father. Although Orazio loves Artemisia, and encourages her in her career, he is played by Michel Serrault as over-protective, unable to accept that his daughter could have lost her virginity voluntarily. In reality Orazio was in his late forties at the time of the events portrayed, but Serrault was nearly seventy when the film was made, a piece of casting doubtless intended to emphasise the generation gap between the passionate young woman and her puritanical old father. We also see Artemisia's famous painting of Judith decapitating Holofernes, which in reality was not painted until after Tassi's trial. Indeed, some commentators have seen this painting as representing her psychological revenge on Tassi, although it should be pointed out that this was a common subject in Italian painting at this period; both Caravaggio and Artemisia's older contemporary Galizia painted versions.
Why, I found myself wondering, did Merlet take so many liberties with history? I think that the answer was not, as some have assumed, because she simply wanted to make a soft porn film, but because she wanted to make Artemisia, who seems obsessed with drawing pictures of male genitalia, into a sexually liberated feminist heroine. The problem is that the concept of "sexual liberation" is a late twentieth century one and that it is an anachronism to introduce it into a film set in the early seventeenth century, a period when there were no reliable methods of contraception and when ideas about female honour and chastity were very different to those of today. In other respects, especially in her willingness to challenge the idea that art was an exclusively male calling, Artemisia Gentileschi can be seen as a proto-feminist, but this does not mean that it is right to see her as a woman of the 1990s transported back in time. Moreover, what sort of feminism is it which portrays as a tender lover a man who in reality was a brutal rapist? 6/10
In real life, Artemisia was raped by Tassi initially, rather than submitting to his advances willingly and passionately as the movie had portrayed. She continued to have sexual relations with him only because he had repeatedly promised to marry her. When they were in court, he had *not* admitted guilt of rape out of pity for Artemisia's torture (unlike what the movie portrays). In reality, he had tried to portray Artemisia as a loose, promiscuous woman with insatiable sexual urges. In the movie, his sister testified in court that Tassi had a wife and had sexual relations with his sister-in-law, and Tassi's character was all the while made to appear as if his sister had been slandering him regarding his alleged affair with his sister-in-law (although he admits to having had a wife back in Florence). Needless to say, in reality it wasn't really like that at all. In fact, far from it. Tassi was really responsible in the planned murder of his wife, whom he had begotten from rape. And to add to that, Tassi really had sexual relations with his sister-in-law, impregnating her in the process, but all this wasn't really mutual as well - again, he had raped his sister-in-law before.
So now we have a clear picture of the real Tassi as a multiple sex offender, what do we make of the film Artemisia's portrayal of him as a lover? We take it as an attempt to make this movie into a romantic film... that this film was never made to be historically accurate... Apart from these points just mentioned, there were other historical inaccuracies like in its interpretation of Artemisia's art (in real-life, she was never really influenced by Tassi's painting style, and she was actually considered a much better painter than Tassi ever was.) One thing remains true and its the fact that Artemisia Gentileschi has been credited as the first woman painter in history, and although her mastery of the art rivalled many of her male peers, she had always experienced difficulty in getting enough credit for her work because of her gender as a woman, in 17th century Italy.
Enjoy this film for its own sake, for it is a pretty good romantic drama, but take its historical references with a grain of salt.
Having read the novel "The Passion of Artemisia" by Susan Vreeland, made us investigate more into the life of this woman, her work, and her legacy. We also read Mary Garrard's "Artemisia Gentileschi", which should be a must read book by all art lovers.
"Artemisia" presents the fictionalized facts we have read about showing the early life of the young woman as she starts to paint. She was clearly influenced by the work of her father, by Caravaggio, Agostino Tassi, and other Florentine painters of that period. Her relationship and love affair with Tassi is the basis of the film. Artemisia, unfortunately couldn't go as far as she could have because of the prejudice against women in the arts. It didn't help either she caused a scandal where she is accused of being raped by Tassi. She had to go to Rome in order to distance herself from that unhappy time of her life.
Valentina Cervi makes a beautiful Artemisia. She is a gorgeous creature who awakened passion in men. Michel Serrault plays Orazio, her father. Miki Maojlovic is seen as Tassi, the man who wanted Artemisia, but ended up in jail. Emmanuelle Devos appears for a moment.
The film has a glossy finish that the camera work of Benoit Delhomme captures in all its splendor. The scenic locales of the film offer an idea of what inspired that school of painting to show in their canvases. The music by Krishna Levy serves well what we see. Agnes Merlet directed with sure hand showing a visual style of her own.
The message of the film is quite simply that art conquers all. Love certainly doesn't and lust is portrayed in an at times farcical manner. In particular the artists orgy scene viewed with delirious humour through the window by our herioine (Artemisia) and the troubling sex scene with her teacher both reinforce the pain, literally, and the bestiality of the sex act.
It's not surprising that her mature work dealt with violent acts of revenge and holy sacrifice in light of what she went through
The shots of skin, sea, sand, canvas and paint dominate this film as the director attempts to create a living canvas on the screen. For the most part this is what is achieved.
The dialogue and plot are almost arbitrary to the dominance of the images, and as such this is an almost edible and tactile piece of work.
This film is such a foundationally inaccurate depiction of Artemisia Gentileschi's life that it almost made me weep. (Type in Artemisia inaccuracies in Google and check out some of the fact vs. fiction articles.) From a purely technical point of view though, the film was alright: the sets, costumes, and especially the chiaroscuro lighting helped create an immersive early 17th century experience; although the above mentioned GLARING FACTUAL INACCURACIES let it down a bit.
I wonder how the director/co-writer Agnès Merlet defended her film at the time? Perhaps she refused to portray Artemisia as a victim, which would've been unfortunate, because lets face it, she was.
What works: great sets and scenes, very convincing recreation of the times, from the domestic to the holy, from the artist's studio to a bordello. The leading actress, Valentine Cervi, is strong and resourceful and pulls of an excellent Artemisia Gentileschi, the woman artist active in the early 1600s. Her teacher and rapist is Agostino Tassi, played with zest in a way that sparks the movie to life. The rest of the cast is good, even excellent, but they are in supporting roles or remain a bit functional (as with Artemisia's father).
What fails: two things. One is the famous problem that the rape of the main character is turned into something of a feisty love affair, changing a key part of the abusive history the artist lived and fought through. It wasn't necessary. This isn't a love story. The other drawback is we never quite see her art--one painting, a famous one (Judith Slaying Holofernes), isn't enough to show she had exceptional talent both technically and imaginatively. It's true, she was a Caravaggio or a Rembrandt (her contemporaries) but her work continues to rise in the view of art historians. It would give some foundation to the movie, better foundation than some oversimplified and even inaccurate statements tacked on the end in plain text.
What is curious: this is a highly sexualized account, to the point of being bizarre. There's no sense this defines Artemesia historically, and though sex probably existed back then, it is pushed to the foreground here as a preoccupation of the filmmakers more than the subject. I didn't mind, but I find it a bit of a bore. There are lovers on the beach quite explicitly seen, the famous rape scene a little less graphic, some peering into a whorehouse with lots of details, and so on. Nudity, too, is part of the reality, and is brought up front here. That might be a plus or minus for many of you, but it didn't contribute to the movie, as a film, for me.
What the movie does best is establish the world of 1610 Rome and environs, and to lay out the basics of Artemisia's situation before her famous move to Florence and her rise into contemporary appreciation (the movie ends with her leaving her family in Rome). It's all guesswork as to the artist's temperament, and Cervi is creditable. The idea of a headstrong young woman willing to take chances, curious about everything, is almost necessary to be able to buck the system. And that male dominated system is evident in the workings of the studios, the home, and eventually the torturous trial.
I'm an art historian of sorts (my specialty is photography), and I watch all biographies of artists on film with skepticism. And so it's no surprise this left me slightly flat--I expected more. In a way, if a film is only about the aura of the artist and her or his world, it might be better to just create a fantasia about it. This gives the appearance of being historical, and as such it is a bit disappointing. Oddly, it's a French movie about an Italian artist, and I saw it with English subtitles.
The script is awful -- pretentious, stilted, and vapid -- and its rewriting of the facts is unusually offensive even in a genre that all too often makes its living by distorting, rather than retelling, history. Along with some fairly decent set design, Valentina Cervi's physical charms are the primary asset of this movie, and it's obvious from the beginning that the filmmakers were aware of this too; they waste no time in contriving various "erotic" sequences which have far more to do with titillation than with plot or character development. Unfortunately, the appeal of seeing a pretty young girl in a state of feigned sexual arousal cannot, and does not, sustain this movie. The acting is unremarkable, and the score is all too generic despite an interesting chord or two. The cinematography is OK, and there are some pretty colors, but there are also some pretty ridiculous sequences using distorted-lens effects more appropriate for a 1960s freakout movie than a costume drama. In any event, the script leaves the camera dwelling all too often on Artemisia's body, and all too seldom on her paintings.
All told, a near-complete failure. It's not intelligent or tasteful enough to be a serious film, and it's too slow and pretentious to work as soft-core pornography. So the French can fail, after all!
The camera work is principally indoors for that is where the artists mainly worked. There are some great shots. Close-ups by candle light suggest the beautiful work of the classical painters and it is fascinating to watch the painters and their students supported by elaborate scaffolding brushing in details of religious frescoes. It is not surprising that the artistic elements of the film (costumes,faces, make-up) are quite superbly authentic because the Italian churches have preserved all these details in their frescoes for centuries. The beautiful Artemisia is urged by her father to study under the great Florentine artist, Tassi, who has become expert in the art of perspective and landscape painting (something very new) but the unsuspecting Artemisia is introduced to more than new techniques in painting. After posing for her, Tassi violently rapes her. Her father is outraged. Court proceedings follow.
This romantic drama has a fairly simple story with an unsatisfactory ending. The outstanding feature of the film is its artistic presentation and attention to detail. Scenes such as women running across a field with the wind billowing their voluminous clothing add wonderful effects.
Artemisia says she paints to please herself; her father paints to please others. As for this film, it will please most, I think.
This movie stays true to the life of Artemisia Gentileschi in that both the actress and the artist are women. Apart from that, the movie exists only in the wonderful world of fiction. To say that this is a bio-pic is a bit of an exaggeration... no, A LOT of an exaggeration. Do a little research on the life of this important 17th Century artist before seeing the movie, or after seeing the movie for that matter. Either one. But as a viewer, please don't defame or romanticise the life of this artist.
Other posters have done the work of explaining the historical record (unusually detailed in this case) of the real Artemisia, a great artist and one of the earliest recognized female painters of this period (17th century). Her story speaks to us in modern times particularly because of the age-old accusation that "all great artists were men" -- she pretty much blasts that assertion to bits -- and because the story of her rape trial is so poignant. Not only was she clearly assaulted, and forced into a degrading sexual relationship (because in those days marriage to your assaulter was the only way to avoid social shame), but Tassi was a serial rapist and possibly killed his wife and child.
The movie does a terrible disservice by inverting this truly fascinating and remarkable real life story -- very dramatic and not in need of any "spicing up" -- because in some weird Frencified way, it's "hotter" to have an oversexed teenager drawing male sexual organs and having a hot love affair with a man old enough to be her grandfather. That's "sexy" -- the truth is boring and seems too feminist/politically correct.
It also disturbs me that this is ONLY part of Artemisia life considered interesting enough to film. The fact that she painted for decades (her famous painting of Judith beheading Holfernes was painted AFTER, not before the rape), that she was the first woman admitted to the prestigious Florentine Academy, that she went on to have children...oh that's boring stuff. After all, that's about a middle aged woman and they aren't "hot" like teenagers.
I understand that there is a lot of creative license in making a film (or a book) about a real historical character. You need to create dialog, have subplots, create dramatic structure. Certainly some details can be sacrificed -- it's no big deal if the dates are moved a few years, or if Artemisia is played by a blonde actress (when we know from her self portraits that she was a brunette...and a big boned one, not a skinny minny), or something like that. But to turn her story around on her, and make rape into a romance is actually sick and disturbing. It's even worse because the director is female. She should be horribly ashamed of herself!
If you LIKE this (and I know some people could care less about the real woman artist and just like period costumes and hot sex), you will probably like "Dangerous Beauty" with Rufus Sewell and Catherine McCormack. Similarly based on heavily re-written history, with lots of heaving bosoms and jewel encrusted goblets: Bon Appetit!
I don't know if you understood this from the movie, probably not, Tassi was not a noble character. He RAPED Artemisia. It was not love, it was rape. He did not claim to accept false charges of rape to stop her from suffering while she was tortured. According to the rape transcripts he continued to claim that he never carnally knew Artemisia (aka had sex with) while she states over and over again "It's true".
I encourage all of you people to go out and find about the real Artemisia and see what she is really about. Don't base all of your knowledge on this fictional movie. I encourage you to do some research, Artemisia really does have interesting story behind her and some amazing art work.
Don't see the movie, but find out the true story of Artemisia.
Also, Tassi was a vile sex offender who raped his sister, obtained his wife through rape, had his wife and child murdered and raped at least four other women (and these are just cases of women who were virgins at the time and thus could file a complaint in that era).
Artemisia never wavered during torture about the fact that she was raped by Tassi and endured horrible lies about her sex life bandied about by Tassi and his cohorts.
The fact that she was able to produce some exquisite artwork despite what she'd endured and social stigma is incredible and the idea of Tassi starting her "artistic awakening" is a punch in the face of that.
She was an amazing woman in her own right and turning her rapist into her artistic inspiration- and presenting it as truth worst of all- is an offense to her and her accomplishments.
This "film" reduces her to a cute little sex kitten and raises her rapist to her lover and savior.
It's honestly just shameful and disgusting for those who know the facts to see this incredible persons life re-written- and badly so at that.
Historically and Biographically this movie has absolutely nothing to do with the great Artemisia Gentileschi (July 8, 15931652), the Italian Early Baroque painter, today considered one of the most accomplished female painters in the generation influenced by Caravaggio.
DON'T WATCH IT!!!! ... and definitely not for the young!