The True Worship of Michelangelo in the film The Agony and the Ecstasy
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The film The Agony and the Ecstasy, 1965, is the epic portrayal of Michelangelo and Pope Julius II based on the historical novel of the same name, by Irving Stone, published in 1961. Their working relationship is documented as the struggle between two powerful and egocentric men. While one is the leader of the Christian world, the other means to change the world through his art. The paradox is that the Pope jealously believes Michelangelo to be the man that can capture the nature of God more successfully and translate that to his followers. The film follows their warring relationship and Michelangelo’s progress on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, as well as notes the inspiration that Michelangelo gets from God for his work on this ceiling.
In this film, Michelangelo is first commissioned by the Pope to execute a design for the 12 apostles on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Michelangelo accepts this commission begrudgingly; he has no choice but to accept. Michelangelo begins to paint the apostles on the ceiling, yet he is unsatisfied with his work. One night, inspired by the metaphor ‘if the wine is sour, spill it out,’ he trashes the work he has completed so far and runs into the mountains, away from the Pope and his commission. While in the marble quarries of Italy, he sees an image of God and Adam in the sky; Michelangelo believes this to be a sign from God, which he will then translate into the now famous Birth of Adam scene on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Michelangelo returns to Rome with his plan for the ceiling and begins his masterpiece.
While the film allows the viewer to envision Michelangelo’s artistic processes- like gessoing the walls, creating cartoons for the figures, and even sculpting figures...
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...ation in the marble quarries is contrived and Hollywood’s way of explaining Michelangelo’s conception of his artistic goals, shrugging of what might be uncomfortable in the 1960s with a man’s infatuation with the male form. A contemporary film would be required to delve more correctly into Michelangelo’s psyche rather then a 1960’s Hollywood sentimentality.
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