An 'essayistic' documentary in which Greenaway's fierce criticism of today's visual illiteracy is argued by means of a forensic search of Rembrandt's Nightwatch. Greenaway explains the ... See full summary »
The venerated filmmaker Eisenstein is comparable in talent, insight and wisdom, with the likes of Shakespeare or Beethoven; there are few - if any - directors who can be elevated to such ... See full summary »
The year 1642 marks the turning point in the life of the famous Dutch painter, Rembrandt, turning him from a wealthy respected celebrity into a discredited pauper. At the insistence of his pregnant wife Saskia, Rembrandt has reluctantly agreed to paint the Amsterdam Musketeer Militia in a group portrait that will later become to be known as The Nightwatch. He soon discovers that there is a conspiracy afoot with the Amsterdam merchants playing at soldiers maneuvering for financial advantage and personal power in, that time, the richest city in the Western World. Rembrandt stumbles on a foul murder. Confident in the birth of a longed-for son and heir, Rembrandt is determined to expose the conspiring murderers and builds his accusation meticulously in the form of the commissioned painting, uncovering the seamy and hypocritical side to Dutch Society in the Golden Age. Rembrandt's great good fortune turns. Saskia dies. Rembrandt reveals the accusation of murder in the painting and the ...Written by
My advice is to first watch 'Rembrandt's J'Accuse', Greenaway's companion film. It fills you in on the background, the characters, the thesis for the conspiracy, and generally sets the scene for 'Nightwatching' itself, which is extremely elaborate and requires a far more prolonged degree of concentration than 99.9% of films being released. Having said that, the film certainly stands alone as a powerful and intelligent piece of cinema that puts forward a contentious and challenging theory about the circumstances surrounding Rembrandt's painting.
Some viewers have pointed out how moving the film is - and indeed it is. But I for one have found ALL of Greenaway's films to be deeply moving. Unlike mainstream directors, he doesn't attempt to tug at the heartstrings, but instead deploys one rich, elegaic, achingly beautiful set piece after another, letting the ideas and associations reach the emotions of the audience. In Greenaway's world, extreme beauty and extreme horror exist cheek-by-jowl - his heroes (more so than his heroines) look for logic and order, and find ultimately chaos and decay - the good go unrewarded, the bad go unpunished - and yet, out of it all, rises a triumphant celebration of life, art, human aspiration, and the possibilities of cinema itself.
If you want a bedtime story about goodies overcoming baddies, look elsewhere. 'Nightwatching', like Greenaway's other work, offers - and demands - much more than that.
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