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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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Director: Guy Green
Stars: Charlton Heston, Yvette Mimieux, George Chakiris
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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 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>

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:

7 October 1965 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Irving Stone's The Agony and the Ecstasy See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$10,000,000 (estimated)

Gross USA:

$4,000,000, 31 December 1965
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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

In his autobiography Rex Harrison admitted wearing lifts in the film so he would look more in line with Charlton Heston. See more »

Goofs

Giovanni de' Medici (Pope Leo X) is portrayed in this movie as an older man in this film, however he was only in his 30s when the Sistine Chapel ceiling was painted and only 37 when elected Pope. See more »

Quotes

Contessina de Medici: Your question insults us both!
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Changing Habits (1997) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Harrison steals the show in an overblown movie with terrific sets
26 October 2011 | by secondtakeSee all my reviews

The Agony and the Ecstasy (1965)

Coming with the American rush to "love art" in the 1950s and 60s (including the famous visit of the real Mona Lisa to America by boat), "The Agony and the Ecstasy" is a touchstone of how to make a hero of an artist and make him or her human, too. That's the key, you know--the artist has to be ribald and earthy but also transcendent, almost beyond his knowing.

That's the flawed paradigm at work here. We learn nothing about how Michelangelo's art was made--how it was painted. Nor how it was devised or inspired--the image of God in the clouds doesn't cut it for me. And we actually learn nothing about the real man--Charlton Heston's interpretation is fair enough, I suppose, but it's really just the necessary cliché of a talented (handsome) man tossed around by forced bigger than him.

What is supposed to drive the movie, and in a way saves it as a piece of entertainment, is the presence of the penny-pinching Pope, played by Rex Harrison (of "My Fair Lady" and "Julius Caesar" fame). His haranguing about the ceiling is blithe and fun. And Heston's complaining as he creates his masterpiece (with plaster dripping on his face--actually pudding in the shoot) is a foil for the Pope more than anything. Oddly, the Pope is a stronger character than the artist, and if history is at all right, we get the sense it was the other way around.

What is terrific about the movie is the set--a replica of the Sistine Chapel in a nearby movie studio. They gave them freedom to shoot it in all different phases of the painting, with and without scaffolding, night and day, and it's pretty marvelous to see it unfold in a way not so far from what must have been the truth.

Another bit of truth snuck in during these last days of the Hays Code: when someone comes looking for Michelangelo in the whore house, the prostitute goes hysterical laughing because, of course, he would never be found there. The artist was gay, and the world knew it then and knows it now, and the filmmakers get a clever wink in.

Another highlight is the incredible marble quarry in Carrara, a real place with what really is the best (seamless, pure, easily sculpted) marble in the world. Lucky it was nearby ancient and Renaissance Rome, both.

Don't avoid this movie at all, but don't expect anything truly penetrating. It's aggrandizing, it's formulaic, it's well filmed, and Harrison is in great form. But director Carol Reed ("The Third Man") chickened out a bit in a chance to push the boundaries a little harder.


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