Pope Julius II (Sir Rex Harrison) is eager to leave behind works by which he will be remembered. To this end he cajoles Michelangelo (Charlton Heston) 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 <email@example.com>
In his 1995 autobiography "In the Arena" Charlton Heston denied that Michelangelo Buonarotti was a homosexual. He also refused permission to use scenes from "The Agony and the Ecstasy" in the 1995 documentary "The Celluloid Closet" because he told the filmmakers he had done a lot of research for his role and could assure them that Michelangelo was not gay. See more »
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 »
The worldly pope Julius II Confronts the great renaissance artist Michelangelo and out of this clash is born the finest frescoes the world has ever seen.
I like historical films. Recently I watched three historical films all made in the early 1960s. These are 'El Cid', 'The Spartacus' and 'The Agony and The Ecstasy'. Of the three, I rate The Agony and the Ecstasy as the best. This film is based on the eponymous novel written by Irving Stone. I had read the book nearly a decade back and it was nice to see the film finally. The film is about the circumstances under which Michelangelo came to compose his famous frescoes in the Sistine Chapel of Rome in the 16th century. The Sistine fresco, the 'creation of man' has become almost an emblem for the artist. But not many know that Michelangelo painted the Sistine frescoes reluctantly, only because he was forced to do so by his patron, Pope Julius II. The film is about the war of wits between these two great men Pope Julius II is a warrior pope, a worldly Pope. His concern is to protect the papal states from being over run by warring European powers. For this he is willing to take up arms. The pope knows that the posterity wont remember him for his spiritual prowess or leadership. Therefore he want to leave great works of art as his legacy. He therefore hires Michelangelo to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. The artist is not very keen on painting and considers sculpture to be his true calling. He is also not willing to conform to the prevailing canons of artistic excellence. He feels constrained by the limits of time and money that is set. All the great moments of the film occur when the Pope and the Artist clash. It is a clash of ideas and world views: (1) Whether sculpture is a superior form of art as compared to painting; (2) Whether it is appropriate depict biblical figures in their raw humanity; (3) Whether it is moral for a man of god to take arms for his principles and so on. For me the finest scene in the film is where the Pope and the Cardinals come to see the frescoes and judge it as lacking in good taste. The Artist is forced to give a strong rebuttal and in the process he expounds the humanist philosophy of art. Shot in beautiful Technicolor, the film still looks spectacular. It is a visual and intellectual treat.
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