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The Agony and the Ecstasy (1965)

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The biographical story of Michelangelo's troubles while painting the Sistine Chapel at the urging of Pope Julius II.

Director:

Carol Reed

Writers:

Irving Stone (based on the novel: "The Agony and the Ecstasy" by), Philip Dunne (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:
Charlton Heston ... Michelangelo
Rex Harrison ... Pope Julius II
Diane Cilento ... Contessina de'Medici
Harry Andrews ... Bramante
Alberto Lupo Alberto Lupo ... Francesco Maria della Rovere, duke of Urbino
Adolfo Celi ... Cardinal Giovanni de' Medici (pope Leo X)
Venantino Venantini ... Paris De Grassis
John Stacy John Stacy ... Sangallo
Fausto Tozzi ... Foreman
Maxine Audley ... Woman
Tomas Milian ... Raphael
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Storyline

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 <stephan@cc.wwu.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

A raging era of titans, popes and princes... of conspiracy and conflict... of turmoil and transgressions... of a man among men... of magnificence! See more »


Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA | Italy

Language:

English | Latin

Release Date:

16 September 1965 (West Germany) See more »

Also Known As:

The Agony and the Ecstasy See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$10,000,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

International Classics See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

70 mm 6-Track (Westrex Recording System) (70 mm prints)| Mono (35 mm prints)

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

2.20 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The dark "paint" dripping into the mouth of Michelangelo as he lies on his back under the fresco was actually chocolate pudding. See more »

Goofs

As shown in the movie Michelangelo created a flat wooden platform on brackets built out from holes in the wall, high up near the top of the windows. But contrary to the depicted on the film, he did not lie on this scaffolding while he painted, but painted from a standing position. See more »

Quotes

Pope Julius II: What you have painted here, my son, is not a portrait of God. It's a proof of faith.
Michelangelo: I hadn't thought that faith needed proof.
Pope Julius II: Not if you're a saint, or an artist. I am merely a pope.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Cleopatra: The Film That Changed Hollywood (2001) See more »

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User Reviews

They don't come much more epic than this
4 August 2002 | by sychonicSee 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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