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Battle of Wills Between Michelangelo and Pope Julius--Fascinating
silverscreen8881 July 2005
This is a fascinating, colorful and very-well made film that looks like an epic and is in fact an intelligent drama about sculptor-painter- architect-poet Michelangelo Buonarrotti. Here portrayed by the much taller Charlton Heston, and admirably, he is presented as a man who want only to create beauty, a man without "people skills" or interest in much of anything else--not women, nor war not the dynastic dreams of men--only the Renaissance idea of utilizing one's abilities. He even pays attention to religion only because the world interests him, and he equates his heaven with what men can achieve--and Earth with the same sort of place he expects to find as an afterlife. Carol Reed directed and produced this fascinating look at the Renaissance, with its warrior priests, its worldly dreamers and its subtle change toward a politics of gunpowder, secular pursuits and worldly morality. Philp Dunne, author of "David and Bathsheba" wrote this thoughtful spectacle film as well. In the cast besides Heston are Rex Harrison as Pope Julius, close-fisted patron, admirer and nemesis, Harry Andrews as his rival Bramante, Diane Cilento as the woman who would like to love him, Alberto Lupo, Adolfo Celli, Fausto Tozzi and a narration by Marvin Miller. The opportunity to see the real landscapes in which Michelangelo was born, worked and became inspired is a wonderful one for the viewer; the entire Carrara marble quarry section is stunningly beautiful. The film has battle scenes able done by Robert D. Webb, Leon Shamroy's cinematography, a prelude by Jerrald Goldsmith and sterling music by Alex North, production design by John Cuir and Jack Martin Smith and memorable costumes by Vittorio Nino Novarese. The basic thrust of the storyline is twofold; against the wars conducted by vigorous and all-too-worldly Pope Julius, the war to win secular hegemony for his Papal rule, the counter-current is Michelangelo's desire to further his career in Rome by obtaining a commission from the Pope. He does, an assignment to refurbish the Sistine Chapel for him. But after an attempt at some saints, he leaves Rome, and flees to his beloved Carrara. There, surrounded by mountains, he has a vision at sunset and suddenly knows what he must do. Obtaining Julius's reluctant permission, he sets to work covering that modest ceiling with tremendous figures, a bearded Jehovah, a recumbent Adam touched to life by a divine spark, the world's most famous fresco painted from a homemade scaffolding; in spite of illness, missed meals, filth, deprivation, cold, an injury that nearly costs him his eye and more, including the Pope's indifference to his intense passion for his art, Michelangelo endures. "When will you make an end?" Julius cries. "When I have done," the artist insists. And at the end, Julius, beaten on the field of battle, admits he may also have been wrong about the ceiling...that his fostering of Michelangelo's work may be the most important thing he has ever done. Of course the puritans of the era object to the nakedness the artist has depicted, but Michelangelo says he painted people as God made them. The movie, based on the biography "The Agony and the Ecstacy" by Irving Stone here concentrates on a seminal moment in the great artist's career. He may be a sculptor as he insists; but after seeing this moving and fascinating film, no one can doubt that he is also a stubborn and single-minded man--and a painter of genius. Most underrated; often fascinating fictionalized biography. Heston and Harrison are good, everyone else good as well. Worth seeing many times, if only for Dunne's dialogue and the scenery.
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A proof of faith and a battle of wills...
Nazi_Fighter_David3 January 2000
Warning: Spoilers
Charlton Heston is very good as Michelangelo Buonarotti, the Florentine painter, sculptor, architect and poet, one of the greatest and most versatile artists of the Renaissance who exerted an extraordinary influence on Western art...

The story - based on the Irving Stone best-seller - tells of that period during Michelangelo's life when he painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel...

Rex Harrison portrays the sprightly Pope Julius II, the greatest art patron of the papal line and one of the most powerful rulers of his age, who led military efforts to prevent French domination of Italy and as a politician and patron of the arts, he shove for a synthesis of church and state, of spirit and culture, with a grandeur unequaled by succeeding popes... His name is closely linked with those of great artists such Bramante, Raphael and Michelangelo... With his wealth of visionary ideas, he contributed to their creativity... Although he had little of the priest in him, he was concerned - toward the end - only with the church's grandeur... He wished for greatness for the papacy rather than for the pope, and for peace in Italy...

The film shows the extraordinary violent temper of the Pope, his lost of his self-control and his rude behavior towards the Florentine when he shouts: 'He will paint it or he will hang!'

But, in one scene, he explains to Michelangelo his reasons: 'If I had not become a conqueror, there would be no church, no pontiff, no hope for peace for mankind and, I might add, no patrons for sculpture, painting, and architecture.'

"The Agony and the Ecstasy" is a proof of faith and a battle of wills... The pope continually asks Michelangelo: 'When you will make an end of it?' and the answer of Buonarotti is invariably the same: 'When I'm finished!'

But despite these recurrent strains imposed on their relations by the two overly similar personalities, their relationship is so close that the Pope becomes, in fact, Michelangelo's intellectual collaborator... The paintings are in form and conception, a product of the artistic symbiosis of two towering figures of the 16th Century-Italy...

Two breathtaking moments of the motion picture are to be mention: The 'Inspiration' scene where the clouds were forming the focal points of Michelangelo's Frescos; and the great sequence of meditation between the Pope and Buonarotti in front of the creation panel...

The supporting cast include: Harry Andrews playing the Italian architect of the Renaissance Bramante; Tomas Milian as Raphael, the master of the Italian High Renaissance style; and Diane Cilento as Contessina Medici, the woman who drives Michelangelo to search his heart for important paths of activity...

The film - an ecstasy for those who love and appreciate great art and powerful work - is a huge spectacle, a rich dramatization, moving and fascinating...

The picture ends by another commission of the Pope to Michelangelo, another huge work, full of swirling figures and terrible images of despair, the powerful fresco: 'The Last Judgment', the ceiling behind the high altar... Michelangelo's continuous argument is heard: 'I still say painting is not my trade!' and, obviously, the Pope response: 'To work, my son!'

And what a huge work Michelangelo left... A breve documentary demonstrates before the beginning of the motion picture: The Pieta of St. Peter's; The Colossal David; and The Moses.

Pope John Paul II led a ceremony December ll, 1999 celebrating the completion of the two-decade restoration of the Sistine Chapel... Speaking haltingly, he said: 'This place dear to the world's faithful not only for the masterpieces it contains but also because of the role it plays in the life of the Church.'
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" If The Wine is sour, . . . . throw it out !
thinker169126 July 2008
During the 16th century, many artists arrived in Rome to fulfill their dreams of earning a place in the "Book of Florence." Among the top five, two stand out with little or no further introduction, other than their names. Names which today personify the epitome of the Renaissance artists. The first is Leonardo de Vinci and the second is Michelangelo Buonarroti, (Charlton Heston). This film, "The Agony and The Extesy" is the story of the latter. Based on a novel by Irving Stone, it relates the clash of tempers between Pope Julius II (Rex Harrison) and the artist who claimed he was first and foremost a sculpturer. Through the turbulent years of Julius's reign, during which time he tried to unify the Papal States by force, he gave a most difficult, nay, nearly impossible commission to Buonarroti, to fresco the ceiling with some "Appropriate Design" for the Cistine Chappel, on his back, on a curved surface 70 feet in the air. The film illustrates the great suffering the artist endured for a commission he never asked for. During the same time, the pope did his best to make a bid for immortality, by forcing the painter to do the impossible. The fact we are given Harry Andrews to play Bramante, who is the pope's architect and Adolfo Celi as Giovanni de Medici, adds to the film becomes history in the making. The movie itself is classic in nature and it's effect is breathtaking in it's climatic rendering. Excellance is the final gift. ****
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Creating A Wonder
bkoganbing17 May 2006
The Agony and the Ecstasy is the story of the creation of the Sistine Chapel Roof painting, the time and money it took while Pope Julius II was busy establishing his Papacy as a political force.

Back in those days the Pope was far more than the head of the Roman Catholic Church. He ruled a considerable piece of real estate in the center of the Italian peninsula that were called the Papal States. They varied in geographic size depending on how relatively strong the Pope or his enemies were at a given time. The Papal States were the last independent entity to join a united Italy in 1870.

The Borgias had been nibbling away at the Papal States for years and their triumph became complete when one of their's became Pope Alexander VI in 1491. When Giuliano Della Rovere became Julius II in 1503 succeeding Alexander VI he had it in mind to reclaim the states from the Borgias and their backer the French monarchy. Those are the folks you see Rex Harrison fighting at the beginning of the film.

In fact Harrison's identity as the warrior Pope is made clear right at the beginning of the film when after we see this figure on a white horse killing some foes in battle, he takes off his helmet and some attendees put his papal vestments right over his armor.

But Julius II wanted to be known as a patron of the arts as well as the warrior Pope. His uncle Pope Sixtus VI had built the Sistine Chapel which is today the personal chapel of the papal residence. According to Wikipedia its dimensions are exactly what the Bible lays down as the dimensions King Solomon built his temple. But who knows what Solomon had decorating his roof.

It's a big bare spot and who to fill it with something good. Julius II decided on Michelangelo Buonarrati who's got quite a resume of creativity to recommend him even though it's mostly sculpture.

The film is the story of the creative differences between Michelangelo and Julius. Michelangelo is knowing he's created something for the ages, but he won't see the big picture of the here and now of Renaissance European politics which Julius II has to deal with.

Sir Carol Reed directed The Agony and the Ecstasy and does a marvelous job of creating the look and atmosphere of the Renaissance in Italy. Charlton Heston and Rex Harrison playing Michelangelo and the Pope give outstanding performances.

If the film has a weakness is that it really is a two man show with no other characters developed in any way. The rest of the mostly Italian cast just serve as a crowd.

If you're either a patron of the arts or a Catholic who would like to know how the Sistine Chapel acquired its legendary roof than by all means see The Agony and the Ecstasy.
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Historical picture about two great figures Renaissance : Michael Angel and Julio II
ma-cortes10 May 2005
The picture deals upon Michael Angel (Charlton Heston) who is working on the Carrara's marble creating sculptures and is ordered by Pope Julius II (Rex Harrison) the painting the Sistina chapel (thus called but was made by Pope Sisto) . Meanwhile , they'll develop a relationship with other Renaissance's important person . The film is correctly based in historical deeds and famous personages , thus: Raphael( Tomas Milian) who appears painting the ¨Athenas's school¨, Bramante (Harry Andrews) author of the dome Vatican , Girlandaio and the Medicis Florencia's descendants (Diane Cilento and Adolfo Celi). Besides , the film paces itself the confrontation among the Julio II troops and the France and Germany army for the possession of the Pope's states . There are epic and impressive battles where the same Pope fights against enemies . The motion picture narrates specially the creation of the enormous paintings on the ceiling and the difficulties what Michael Angel is suffering to achieve the immortal legacy . The Pope Julio II also will assign him the realization of his tomb.

The feature obtained a limited success and had a moderated box-office , it is nowadays better valued . Acting by two principal actors is first-range , both of whom are magnificent . However , Rex Harrison did not get along with Charlton Heston at all during filming ; twelve years later, while filming ¨Crossed swords¨ , he avoided him completely . Leon Shamroy cinematography is rousing , the colorful paintings are glowing and glittering reflecting Bible's scenes . Alex North music is riveting (like ¨Spartacus¨ who he equally made). The sets are overwhelming and breathtaking , they were realized by John De Cuir as production designer . Carol Reed direction and production is excellent , he has got many experience with a long career and had directed other classics (The third man) . Rating: Very good, above average and well worth seeing.
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They don't come much more epic than this
sychonic4 August 2002
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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Purportedly a biography of Michelangelo, it turned out to be that of Pope Julius II
Deusvolt28 January 2005
The movie is better than the book in the sense that it is kinder to Michelangelo. Remember that in the book there were hints of the artist's latent homosexuality to explain his lack of interest in women. In the movie, this is attributed to his dedication to his artistry. His greatest rival in the arts, Leonardo da Vinci also does not figure in the movie, but to no great loss as his presence would have needlessly complicated the plot.

The movie portrays Pope Julius II, "the warrior Pope" in good light. He took up the sword to finally bring an end to French interference in the papacy (cf. the "Babylonian Captivity" of the papacy in Avignon). And of course, despite the notorious division of Italy into city states, he struggled to free that country from foreign domination while keeping the papal states intact.

Rome is correctly shown as a city in decay during the Middle Ages. It took Julius II to finally build a Basilica worthy to be the focus of world Christianity. His patronage of the arts and of grand architecture enabled Rome to justly keep the title "The Eternal City."

In the end, Julius II may be judged as a competent monarch and in his way, a faithful priest who initiated many reforms to curb corruption among the clergy.

Heston and Harrison, both great actors, brought out the best in one another as they gamely sparred in this immortal film - one as the driven and haunted artist, the other as the saturnine Pope fighting to preserve the temporal power of the papacy against all odds.
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Truly a real 'Art' film
ironhorse_iv19 March 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Director Carol Reed paints us, the audience, a portrait of the relationship between artist Michelangelo (Charlton Heston) and the Warrior Pope Julius II (Rex Harrison) based on the novel by Irving Stone. Pope Julius II has just commissioned the artist to paint the Sistine Chapel ceiling despite Michelangelo wanting no part of it. The two Renaissance's most colorful figures play a game of cat and mouse, as one is persistent and will not cease until he gets what he wants which is Michelangelo's painting his ceiling. The other figure, Michelangelo is an artist who did not want to paint, stubborn and resisted to all things "normal". He is not stubborn just to be stubborn. He can follow the suggestions of others unless it pertains to art, particularly his art. He knows what he wants and he has reasons for believing that his way will be best. His work on the Sistine Chapel would often bump heads with the strong mind Julius on issues of nudity, and how to portray God's work. The battle of wills fueled by artistic and temperamental differences gives us the audience, a great dramatic historical film. The combination of Michelangelo's varied background as sculptor, painter, poet, architect and engineer, his own personal weaknesses and vanity, and his unremitting drive which enabled him to conquer overwhelming disappointments and find satisfaction in difficult and backbreaking work makes gives the movie its title. Charlton Heston and Rex Harrison are very great in their role as I feel the acting is amazing. Still Charlton Heston feels a bit playing over the top wooden in the role and Rex Harrison is a bit too wordy. The cinematography in the film is breath taking and scenic. I love the scene in which Michelangelo emerged from the cave to find a beautiful sunset giving him his idea for the Sistine Chapel ceiling. It reminds me of how man first came out of the caves dwellings life and into a life of innovative thinking. So Renaissance like. The soundtrack by Alex North is a brilliant score. Oscar nominated work right there. One of the faults of the film is the pace of the movie is very slow to the point, it's snail like. 138 min is the final run time. Historians were quick to point out that the film was even less historically accurate than the Irving Stone bestseller on which it was based. This movie is only a small part of the book and Michelangelo's life. There was a lot of interesting parts left out in order to make the entire movie about the painting of the Sistine Chapel. Yes, Charleton Heston nor Rex Harrison look nothing like Michelangelo or Pope Julius II, but it's true that Michelangelo and Julius were stiff-necked, driven men who use reverse-psychology on each other to get what they want. Another issue about the film is the issue of Michelangelo's sexuality. The movie has Medici's wife in love with him while history states that he might had be homosexual. I know in the 1960's, it would be shocking to see Charleston Heston play a homosexual character, but with all the Homoeroticism art Michelangelo did, it would more historical accurate. In my opinion, it's better to cross out the love story, and focus more on his struggle with the ceiling. The locations scenes in Italy do well in evoking the early 16th Century in Italy. Still, the streets a bit too clean for 16th century Italy. If you are not hooked on historical accuracy and are willing to see Charlton Heston be in pained for several hours, you may enjoy this film. Essential to watch for any art fan.
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excellent historical drama
Robert D. Ruplenas3 November 2000
I would be more generous than Maltin was with this one. I watched it again recently on tape and my impression improved over my first viewing. The production values are sumptuous, and the construction of a 1:1 mockup of the Sistine Chapel by Dino deLaurentis is a story in itself, evidently. Heston is pretty good as Michelangelo but is, I think, overshadowed by Harrison, who is just marvelous as Pope Julius (a previous commenter remarked on the historically inauthentic absence of his beard; in addition, Julius was too old & inform too ride a horse into battle, but insisted on leading while carried on a litter). The conflicted interplay between Julius & Michelangelo is the core of the film, of course, and the script does its job well in this regard, particularly in the closing dialogue. It is interesting, though, to see how the movie dances around the issue of Michelangelo's purported homosexuality. We are so much more frank today (not necessarily for the better), and one shudders to consider how a contemporary movie would treat this subject (not that there's a chance in hell of a major movie being made today on the subject of the creation of one of the masterworks of West's artistic inheritance). If any movie definitely needs the letterbox format to show it off at its best, it is this one, so watch for it on AMC where it is often shown that way.
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One of Hestons best.
mm-3919 October 2002
When will it be ready? When its done! This is a great portrayal of Michal Angelo. Heston's high water mark, and this is hard to out do. Even with the films age it does not look dated. Much better than other movies form this time period. This is a movie with a message. Rent it or even buy it. 8/10
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"When will you end it??"
Spuzzlightyear28 August 2005
'Agony and the Ecstasy' is one heck of an attempt to be a big of a movie as possible. It's details the story of Pope Julius's commissioning of a reluctant Michelangelo to paint the roof of the Sistine chapel fer heaven's sakes!! It also two of the stars That Mattered In The 60's, Rex Harrison playing the Pope and Charlton Heston as Michelangelo! AND it runs for 2 and a half hours! I mean, this movie must mean something if they have a mini-biography of Michelangelo for the first 15 minutes, right? OK, despite it's too long running length, the movie is a fun sit through actually. It's not exactly a pompous costumed historical drama as it looks, sure there's a lot material covered here, but Heston and Harrison keep the story going quite well with their great portrayals here. I had seen this several years ago, and while Heston is good, it's Harrison who got my attention this time out, as his total control freak Pope character is quite entertaining to watch.

So again, a bit lengthy, but still entertaining.
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Harrison steals the show in an overblown movie with terrific sets
secondtake26 October 2011
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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Exquisite film. Hollywood would never make something like this today.
soulcleaver23 October 2007
Warning: Spoilers
The Agony and the Ecstasy is a 1965 film about the painting of the Sistine Chapel and is loosely based on Irving Stone's novel of the same name. Starring Charlton Heston as Michelangelo and Rex Harrison as Pope Julius II, the film seems to be historically accurate, with the usual artistic liberties taken (such as Michelangelo not being jailed and beaten for arguing with the pope) to make it enjoyable to watch. The sets were exquisite. It will never cross your mind that this was made in the twentieth century. The attention to detail, such as the pope's splendor and the peasants' squalor, immerses the viewer in the Renaissance. While the pope's British accent was at first awkward, it is indicative of Hollywood's tendency to give British accents to Europeans. Heston speaks in a brash American accent, but his performance is grand enough to forgive this.

The strained relationship between Julius and Michelangelo creates visible tension throughout the movie. The two bicker and have their differences, but even Michelangelo's sketches lying on the dirt prove so captivating to Julius that he, ignoring the cannons and screams around him during a battle to regain Catholic lands, must study them. At this moment, the two men are sharing a sense of purpose toward the same goal of glorifying God and his creations. They seem like generals planning a battle other than the one going on around them.

The final message was that God inspires people to do important things, even if they don't realize it. Pope Julius thinks he's just a warrior and Michelangelo thinks himself a mere artist, but centuries later they are remembered for their ambitious actions in creating a wondrous work of art.

The ultimate result is an immensely entertaining, realistic, beautiful masterpiece comparable to the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel itself.
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The two parts of love
blanche-219 August 2006
"The Agony and the Ecstasy" is the story of Michaelangelo and his painting of the Sistine Chapel at the behest of Pope Julius II, a warrior and Patron of the Arts.

But it's really about so much more - the connection between art and the artist, faith, will, and the quest for perfection. Most of all, it's about the complicated relationship of two determined men, Michaelangelo and Pope Julius, which is adversarial and even violent.

The color and scenery in this film are truly beautiful, but I'd love to see a restored print, as I imagine the colors would even be richer.

Charlton Heston is a convincing and strong Michelangelo in what may be his best performance. It's buoyed by the magnificent work of Rex Harrison as Julius II. The two spark one another, and the result is an exciting screen teaming. There is hatred, resentment, a battle of wills, love and admiration between them, the agony and ecstasy of connecting with another, as Diane Cilento says in the film. She plays a woman in love with Michaelangelo. He explains that he cannot love her because of the commitment he has made to his true love, his art. The book hints at Michaelangelo's homosexuality, and it's covered with one line. After Michaelangelo says that he cannot match her feelings, he looks at a sketch of a nude man. "And it's not that either," he says.

Many scenes stick out. The somewhat hokey one in the mountains, when Michaelangelo looks at the heavens and receives his inspiration is nevertheless a gorgeous scene; the incredible scene when Michaelangelo discovers the Pope alone at night with a candle studying the ceiling is perhaps the best, as Michaelangelo explains his concept of God and faith. And the last scene between the two men is unforgettable.

There is a documentary about Michaelangelo and his work before the movie begins. A magnificent film. Don't miss it.
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A dull reduction of a complex Renaissance man
David Conrad17 June 2013
Rex Harrison adds some interest with his well-rounded portrayal of "the Warrior Pope," but the rest of this novel adaptation is forgettable. Michaelangelo's fascinating relationship with the Medici family and the Pope calls for a script with some intellectual and emotional depth, but the dialogue and story here are mostly one-dimensional. A short documentary appended to the beginning of the movie highlights Michaelangelo's impressive sculpture work, and that might well have made a better subject matter for a film. I was surprised to see Adolfo Celi, James Bond's nemesis from "Thunderball," as the future pope Leo X, and even more surprised that he conveyed more personality in a few lines than the lead actors did in over two hours.
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When will you make an end?
Spikeopath7 April 2008
When I am finished!

And so it be that that is the often repeated exchange between Rex Harrison's Pope Julius II & Charlton Heston's Michelangelo, and thus we have the basis for the film version of Irving Stone's novel The Agony & The Ectasy. This is a fictionalised account of how Michelango came to paint his masterpiece on the roof of the Sistine chapel, focusing solely on the two main characters of the piece, The Agony & The Ectasy is a character and dialogue driven piece of work.

I'm not here to give you a history lesson on the Renaisssance painters or the background to Pope Julius II (The Warrior Pope) and his term of office, there are many well written comments on this site that revel in that side of things. I'm here purely as a lover of this film and to tell you that I do indeed love it regardless of the obvious historical failings. It spins a smashing story of two great men driven to distraction by each other on account of each respective man's blustery ego, both men seemingly failing to realise that what irks them so, does in fact flourish the soul. Thankfully the two lead actors here put up a special show to carry the film with ease, with both Heston & Harrison really getting their teeth into the roles to feed off of each other with quality results - with one scene having Michelangelo goad Julius off of his sick bed being particularly memorable.

The toil and time consuming lengths that Michelangelo went to finish the wondrous ceiling of the chapel is perfectly captured by the pacing from director Carol Reed, and it's within this mindset that I personally feel engrossed with the characters from beginning to end. Though it should be noted that the film is not without moments of humour, some scenes shaking you away from the men's battle of wills to bring dashes of levity. It's safe to say that one should avoid this film if they are after a searing costume drama infused with battles and death encompassing romances, this is purely for those after fine art, fine acting, and most of all, fine story telling. 8.5/10
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Extraordinary performances duel between two great actors.
psagray7 August 2013
Italian Renaissance, early sixteenth century (Cinquecento). When Pope Julius II (Rex Harrison) instructs Michelangelo (Charlton Heston) to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, the artist rejects the job. The Pope obliged to accept it, but Michelangelo destroys his work and flees Rome. When he finally resumed the project, it becomes a battle of wills railways, enlarged by constant artistic and temperamental differences. It is a historical drama based on a bestseller by Irving Stone.

The wonderful work of the dome of the Sistine Chapel in Rome, seen through a short period of the life of the teacher Miguel Angel .. A great script, perhaps to be a little to match the theme of the film, the relationship between man and religion, immense love for art and the struggle for power and that will transcend the human.

This was one of the last major confrontations film of all time: Charlton Heston and Rex Harrison. (Michelangelo and Julius II) locked in a struggle for blackmail purposes, extortionists, and almost amoral. Between Pope and warrior arbitrary and brazen genius and heartbreaking, this drama occurs artistic height, since the battle between drags us, nothing more, nothing less!, That so cool giant of the Sistine Chapel. Historical facts are parallel, the conception of the greatest work of art mural of history, and lost causes of a Pope who crowned his reign by fratricidal wars and some other slaughter. But Heston is the dream Michelangelo. And Harrison plays the most subtle and memorable of the Popes of that Roman curia, somewhere between the luxury of the Medici and the Renaissance genius. Carol Reed follows step by step each move of the two giants. The experience of the Sistine is brutal. It seems a reckoning with the history of art. But it exudes beauty from every pore.

This movie has two great performances by Charlton Heston and Rex Harrison in that bond between them by raising a wonderful work for posterity. The excellent soundtrack by Alex North and Carol Reed's superb work handling make this film also an opportunity to enjoy the art and sentiment approach in many of the scenes from the movie.
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Stunning Visuals, Fine Harrison, Thin Inaccurate Bio
dglink6 February 2016
Already renowned as a master sculptor, Michelangelo is commanded by Pope Julius II to paint the ceiling of his Sistine Chapel, and he reluctantly accepts the commission. Based on Irving Stone's best-selling novel, "The Agony and the Ecstasy" is a thin retelling of the artist's creative struggle and his verbal sparring with the Pope. Carol Reed's lavish production is shamelessly padded with a documentary prologue about Michelangelo's sculpture, an intermission little more than an hour into the movie, exit music, and numerous atmospheric shots that add little but running time to the story. However, the padding and extras provided enough perceived value to warrant a reserved-seat roadshow presentation at higher ticket prices, which was a popular venue for prestige films in the 1950's and 1960's. Unfortunately, this obviously big-budget production exemplifies the old adage that the whole is less than the sum of its parts.

Charlton Heston has a granite face and monumental physique that suggests one of Michelangelo's sculptures, and, while he has on-screen presence, his acting range falls short of the demanding role of a tortured artist. Rex Harrison, on the other hand, is outstanding as the warrior pope, a complex man balancing spiritual and worldly ambitions. Fresh from an Academy Award nomination for his Julius Caesar in "Cleopatra" and a second nomination and the Oscar for his Henry Higgins in "My Fair Lady," Harrison deserved a least a third nod for this film. The rest of the cast is adequate, although Diane Cilento, who does the best she can with a thankless role, is little more than a bone thrown to the female audience in what is essentially a male-centric drama. Michelangelo is among the world's most famous historical gay men, and, while Philip Dunne's screenplay alludes to the artist's sexuality, the script blurs the issue and sidesteps a direct confrontation; Cilento's ambiguous relationship with the artist was likely intended to throw off all but the most knowledgeable viewers.

Aside from Harrison's performance, "The Agony and the Ecstasy" is worthy viewing as a visual feast. Fresh from Oscar-winning work on "Cleopatra," the Twentieth Century Fox design team of John DeCuir and Jack Martin Smith stunningly recreated the ecclesiastical glory of 16th century Rome. Among other Oscar winners for "Cleopatra" were Vittorio Nino Novarese, whose costumes glow in reds, crimsons, and golds; and Leon Shamroy, whose color cinematography gloriously captures the period detail. A fine score by Alex North, another veteran of "Cleopatra," further enhances the visuals. Carol Reed's adaptation of "The Agony and the Ecstasy" is eye, and some times ear, candy, especially for those interested in art history; the scenes that detail the creation of the Sistine Chapel ceiling are particularly fascinating. However, beyond the visuals and an award-worthy performance by Rex Harrison, the film is thin on drama and weak on historical accuracy.
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The Agony and the Ecstasy
lasttimeisaw10 August 2011
The film is an epic grandeur feature of a interpersonal tug-of-war between the maestro Michelangelo and Pope Julius II.

I cannot help being shell-shocked to see the reconstruction of the magnificent ceiling though recognizably most of which is the trickery of montage (not in the real the Sistine Chapel, the location was inside Cinecitta Italy instead), but bathing under the glamour and solemnness of the visual wonders, I am stunned to exude my admiration and awe!

The two leads conspicuously stimulate a Moses versus Caesar confrontation, Charlton Heston seems to be more boorish than artistic to manifest a struggled Michelangelo, may God doesn't distinguish his people by their looks. The "agony and ecstasy" is watered down to an underwhelming stalemate thanks to Charlton's outlandish incarnation as the most eminent artist of that time. Rex Harrison, is by far and large worthy another Oscar nomination for his arresting devotedness, which is apt to impress the audience with a mind-blowing bi-polar characterization while good and evil coexist at the same time.

The film was a grave box office fiasco when it came out in 1965, however, judging by my appraisement, its merits still can be appreciated by our generation (a well-balanced script, the haunting original score and all the props and settings). However, the film entirely skipped Michelangelo's sexual orientation and awkwardly ploys a portentous conversation between Michelangelo and his admirer Contessina de'Medici (a over-wise Diane Cilento), which unveiled its cowardliness and helplessness.

My final remark is that as time goes by ruthlessly, art stands still and never fades away, so lucky enough cinema is yet a part of it.
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Genius at the Doorsteps of Power
Marcin Kukuczka15 August 2009
While returning from Tuscany, which, as a region of Italy, may be justly called 'the pearl of art', our group decided to see the film about Michelangelo Buonarotti (1475-1564). Being influenced by the genius encountered in Florence, by the divine works of great artists, what better choice to make than watch an ambitious movie made in Hollywood in the heyday of timeless productions? "Charlton Heston in the lead, Rex Harrison at his side, Harry Andrews and Adolfo Celi among the supporting cast..." said the presenter. However, do these names indicate anything for a modern movie buff? Some of us had doubts whether the people will find such a film interesting. Nevertheless, after a few minutes of watching, most of our group were convinced to fill the last evening of our journey with this movie.

THE AGONY AND THE ECSTASY is a story of an artist, of his struggles, his pains, yet, a great passion that fulfills itself in the creative power of inspiration. It is a touching tale of a divine artist being put at the doorsteps of worldly might. It is a mesmerizing story of two worlds: the one which quickly receives its glory at once and the one which takes pains throughout the tedious way towards perfection. How then is it possible for the world of 'quick victories' not to ask impatiently: "When will you come to an end?" However, there appears to be something that may unite these worlds, the visions indicated in a beautiful scene...

Here, let me broaden the theme that I have just mentioned above. The figure of Michelangelo (Charlton Heston) appears to be clearly contrasted to the figure of Pope Julius II (Rex Harrison), not the pope of our modern understanding as a purely spiritual leader for some people, but a leader of the army, a warrior who never stops thinking that God is at his side. How, then, can the two understand each other? How can Michelangelo's subtle spirit of inspiration go with Julius' loud drums of battle field? Great, absolutely magnificent performances by Heston and Harrison highlight this aspect even more clearly in lots of memorable moments. They impact upon viewers powerfully.

THE AGONY AND THE ECSTASY is also a captivating story of jealousy, hostility, disapproval that a true artist must experience in order to get through the 'catharsis' towards perfection. Michelangelo is showed in his famous period of life (years 1508-1512) when he was painting his well known masterpiece, the Sistine Chapel in Rome. He is indefatigable in that search for beauty of inspiration and never ending capacity of creation, which is memorably proved by the last scene of the movie...

The performances are very good, but, as I have already mentioned: Heston and Harrison shine in their roles, not in terms of looks, since Rex Harrison's face, for instance, hardly resembles pope Julius' face that we know from the famous portrait by Raffaello Sanzio, but in terms of character portrayals. Other cast, including Harry Andrews in the role of Bramante and great Italian (Sicilian) actor Adolfo Celi as Giovanni Medici are memorable and accurate. They and most of the other supporting cast prove the fact that THE AGONY AND THE ECSTASY was truly a valuable mutual undertaking. The visual aspect, though sometimes flawed, wins thanks to wonderful sets in picturesque locations of Umbrian and Tuscan landscapes.

In sum, the following reflection appeared after viewing the film: although true art appears to be vague for many, it steps powerfully throughout the ages of human history. That is why genius may sometimes be at the doorsteps of power in order to rise again being unpredictably given life by the Divine Hand. That is what we partly encounter in the glamor and splendor of the Sistine Chapel...

A good film deeply rooted in the pains of the artist but well understood when combined with the essence of Michelangelo's masterpiece.
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Kirpianuscus29 April 2017
like many historical films from the same age of Hollywood, the word "impressive" is the first to say. not only for its status of epic drama, costumes and the translation in image of a period. but, maybe , more important, for the admirable clash between Rex Harrison and Charlton Heston. and for the feel than a great story has its right and fair adaptation. because something impose "The Agony and the Ectasy" as special. not the biography of a great artist - and the admirable virtue is to know than Heston is Michelangelo not only act him - but the chance to discover yourself. the film, like the book, it is a beautiful eulogy to the life. using a genius as character of a kind of parable about art, proud, honesty and desire. so, just impressive. in this case - a word with deep roots.
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Harrison's show all the way
Martin Bradley17 April 2017
Not quite the disaster the critics made it out to be but hardly likely to be remembered among the best of Carol Reed. It was a prestige production done on a grand scale but neither Philip Dunne's screenplay nor, indeed, Irving Stone's original novel were inspirational. The subject, of course, is Michaelangelo's painting of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and Charlton Heston, who else, is a hugely miscast Michaelangelo, (he's heterosexual, for starters). He does what he can with the part but the material defeats him. On the other hand, Rex Harrison not only carries the movie but redeems it. He barnstorms his way through the part of Pope Julius II, the man who commissioned Michaelangelo in the first place. He even manages the fanciful dialogue, barking it out as though it were Shakespeare. There's also a decent supporting cast, both British and Italian, with the Italians largely dubbed, but they too are wasted. Does it give us any insight into the man or his work? Absolutely not, but as epics go it's a pleasant enough time-passer.
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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.
appujosephjose15 February 2013
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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Ad Majorem Papae Gloriam
James Hitchcock9 August 2012
"The Agony and the Ecstasy" is a biography of the artist Michelangelo, concentrating particularly on his relationship with his patron Pope Julius II and the painting of the Sistine Chapel. It is essentially the story of the clash of two powerful, determined personalities. Like most Renaissance Popes, Julius was less a religious pastor than a secular ruler, a man whose position as head of state of the Papal States made him one of the most powerful in Italy, both politically and militarily. He was determined to maintain and, if possible, increase the power of his fiefdom, with a view to reducing French influence in Italy, and to this end pursued a vigorous and aggressive foreign policy. His willingness to wage war in pursuit of his political goals today seems incongruous in a man who was, ostensibly, a follower of the Prince of Peace, but his contemporaries may have seen less of a contradiction than we do. Although there had been a Pope Julius I more than a thousand years earlier, his choice of this particular papal name may have been influenced by the great conqueror, Julius Caesar.

Julius's zeal for the power and glory of the Papal States also led him to conceive an ambitious building scheme to make Rome the greatest city in Europe, including the rebuilding of St Peter's Basilica and the patronage of artists whom he used to decorate his new buildings. The Sistine Chapel was not one of his creations- it had been built by his uncle Sixtus IV- but he wanted to use it as a showpiece of the splendours of his papacy.

Michelangelo, as played by Charlton Heston, is as stubborn and obstinate as Julius. He is initially reluctant to take on the Sistine Chapel commission because he sees himself primarily as a sculptor rather than a painter. Unlike the Pope he is a genuinely religious man, and has no problem with working to the greater glory of God, but fears that in painting the chapel he will be working to the greater glory of Pope Julius. He knows, however, that an outright refusal would be dangerous; at one point Julius shouts "He will paint it or he will hang!" When Michelangelo does start work he proves an obsessive perfectionist, working very slowly and answering Julius's insistent question "When will it be finished" with the equally insistent answer "When it is ready!" Yet, despite their differences, a certain respect and understanding does grow up between the two.

I would agree with the reviewer who said that the film's main weakness is that it is essentially a two-man show that does not arouse too much in the way of dramatic tension. Yet those two men are both very good, with acting honours going, perhaps surprisingly, to Rex Harrison, an actor who has not always been my favourite. He could at times appear too casual and laid back, and must be counted very fortunate to have won his "Best Actor" Oscar for "My Fair Lady" (too old and can't sing) against the likes of Richard Burton, Anthony Quinn and Peter Sellars. Here, however, he is masterful as the cynical and worldly Pontiff. Heston's performance as Michelangelo works well in the context of the film, although he has been criticised for not giving a true picture of the artist's character; Michelangelo was far from the tall, handsome, virile man portrayed here, and is generally believed by historians to have been gay. Homosexuality, of course, was still taboo in the cinema of 1965, so a heterosexual love-interest is provided for the artist in the shape of the beautiful Contessina de'Medici, played by Diane Cilento aka Mrs Sean Connery.

The film was directed by the great Carol Reed, who brings to it a certain look of a Renaissance painting with striking colours. Heston was perhaps best-known for his work in the epic style ("The Ten Commandments", "Ben-Hur", etc), and at times Reed seems to be striving to lend this film something of the feel of an epic, particularly in the battle scenes and those set in the stone quarries, where the cutting of marble is shown as a work of heroic labour, comparable to something like the building of the pyramids. I would not rate the film quite as highly as something like Minnelli's "Lust for Life" about Van Gogh, but despite its dramatic weaknesses "The Agony and the Ecstasy" is one of the cinema's more interesting attempts to explore the nature of artistic creativity. 7/10
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Are you a Charlton Heston fan?
joh0603923 October 2007
The Agony and the Ecstasy

The movie, The Agony and the Ecstasy, was fairly accurate to history. Of course, there are a few changes made in the movie to increase the entertainment value. In the film it is implied that Michelangelo had a relationship with one of the Medici sisters. However, there is no such account given in the historical record, so we presume it to be Hollywood-ized romance. The historical truth is that Michelangelo was a devout Christian, with no record of an intimate relationship. It appeared that a lot of time was spent in studying the era of the time to create the costumes, especially those of church officials. They wore very detailed and symbolic robes and gowns.

As far as the Sistine Chapel looked, it was well done in that it looked comparable to the one in real life. In the storyline, Michelangelo's work is delayed three times, as the Pope doesn't have funds to pay him. In our research though, we could not find any evidence of the three uncommisions. European wars were accurate and actually had the Pope in the battle field, which was accurate because he was known as the "Warrior Pope". We found it interesting that Pope Julius II called Michelangelo 'Buonarroti'; nevertheless, it is part of the painter's name. In the film, Michelangelo gets upset and destroys some of his work which is also true. Church officials criticized Buonarroti's work saying that the pictures painted were indecent. As far as the main character, Charlton Hesston looked way too good for a man who never bathed or shaved. We found the Pope and Michelangelo's love/hate relationship quite entertaining! ("When will you make an end?" …"When I am finished!" - A funny 4 year long argument). The best entertainment was Michelangelo's fall from the ceiling. It was extremely dramatized and very amusing! Some themes throughout the movie were: 'the world is not alone' which was brought to our attention when Michelangelo sits pondering atop a mountain. The clouds are shaped in the form of God; thus 'the world is not alone'. It was also symbolic when Michelangelo was struggling and not satisfied with his work. So he takes time off (actually fleeing) to consider what would really be of useful meaning for the painting of the Sistine Chapel… 'Meditation brings inspiration'. Michelangelo really focuses on the fact that "God created man in his own image"- (that's why Michelangelo painted his models nude).
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