Charlton Heston and Rex Harrison portray two of the Renaissance's most colorful figures in this historical drama based on Irving Stone's best-seller set in the early 16th century. When Pope Julius ll (Harrison) commission... more »s Michelangelo (Heston) to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, the artist initially refuses. Virtually forced to do the job by Julius, he later destroys his own work and flees to Rome. Eventually resumed, the project becomes a battle of wills fueled by artistic and temperamental differences that form the core of this movie. Nominated for an Oscar® Cinematography and named one of the year's best films by the National Board of Review.« less
Alejandra Vernon | Long Beach, California | 05/16/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"There is no other film on the subject of art that is better than this one in my opinion. Irving Stone's best-seller was a great read, but in this case the film is better than the book. It centers on the creation of the Sistine Chapel ceiling, and the contentious but invigorating relationship between Michelangelo and Pope Julius II; one drove the other "to complete his work", and even their verbal battles were productive. It is about the courage of putting one's vision into reality, the hard work, and the faith in one's self and in God.The script by Irving Stone and Philip Dunne is fabulous; the words flow like sweet wine and there is not a single unnecessary scene, or rarely one that is not meaningful. The direction by Carol Reed is meticulous, the cinematography by Leon Shamroy a marvel, and the score by Alex North adds much to the film. The costuming and sets are lavish for the papal quarters and the Medici household, and give one a sense of 16th century Rome, and the depictions of the fresco painting technique is interesting and educational. Charlton Heston, gaunt and bearded, is brilliant as Michelangelo, as is Rex Harrison as the warrior pope. The interactions of these two actors is riveting, and the dialogue between them worth hearing repeatedly. Others of note in the cast include Diane Cilento as the Contessina de Medici, Harry Andrews as Bramante, and Tomas Milian as Raphael (the most famous papal portrait I know of is by Raphael, of Pope Julian II).Though Stone's book and script take much artistic license, there is also a good deal of accuracy. This period of 16th century Italy was one of the most fascinating in all world history, and Pope Julius II was not only one of its greatest art patrons, but also an extraordinary man.
This is a film that moves me to tears with its beauty, and brightens my mind with its words. If you are interested in the artistic process, don't miss this magnificent film.The film includes a Prologue, a mini-documentary of modern-day Rome and Florence, which traces Michelangelo's life, from his birth in Tuscany in 1475, showing his many wondrous works, including an early sculpture he did at the age of 15, through his death in 1564. Total running time is 139 minutes."
Almost a spiritual journey
E. A Solinas | MD USA | 08/07/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Though I am useless at sculpting and almost so at painting, I have sort of adopted Michaelangelo as my creative mentor. This movie cemented that thought.Michaelangelo is a master sculptor from Florence, carving the tomb for the warrior-pope Julius (no, he isn't dead yet even though they're carving his tomb). But Julias drags him from his commission for another one-paint the ceiling of the Sistine chapel with "appropriate designs." Michaelangelo, who has only dabbled in fresco painting, is both enraged and inspired. He destroys the paintings and runs away from Rome, but returns when a vision shows him how the ceiling should be. Both men, creator and destroyer, artist and pope, are changed forever by the "work of love" that is the Sistine Chapel.Charlton Heston was in fine form in this movie-he makes you feel everything that Michaelangelo feels. I sometimes think that the real men rather than the monuments (like Moses) that he plays are more his style. He does it realistically, wearing ratty clothing and often covered with paint dribbles. Michaelangelo does not stay the same-at the end of the movie, he is a humbler and wiser man than before.And don't diss Rex Harrison-once I got over the "Doctor Doolittle as pope" thing, I found him very enjoyable. He manages to overcome some lines that would make me giggle in his place, including, "Is it proper for your pontiff to conduct Mass in a barn?" He makes you hate Julius initially, but as the movie progresses you grow to love him as much as Michaelangelo.There are some truly excellent secondary characters, like Tessina the noblewoman who sort-of-secretly loves Michaelangelo, but understands that his paintings come first. Her brother, a Medici cardinal, seems a bit stilted, though. Tomas Milian plays another famous Renaissance artist, Raphael, who shows up with only a few lines of dialogue, but changes the course of the movie. Oh, and watch out for ice-cold architect Bramante.Combine it with the glorious shots of the Sistine chapel's ceiling and Heston painting mockups, and you have a movie that deserves to be a classic."
Surprisingly good restoration of a Todd-AO clunker
Ludix | Upton, MA United States | 05/08/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I'll leave the artistic merits of this movie for others to argue over. Suffice it to say that it moves at a leisurely pace, and that the two main actors (Heston and Harrison) take turns mugging, gnashing their teeth and chewing the gorgeous scenery. However, since Amazon's product listing doesn't list the technical specs, here they are:
This DVD release of THE AGONY AND THE ECSTASY was made from the original 65mm Todd-AO negative, digitally restored. Aspect ratio is correct at 2.20:1, anamorphically enhanced for widescreen TVs. The colors are deeply saturated, and the picture looks quite sharp, with little grain on my high-end Sony HDTV CRT.
The available soundtracks (all Dolby Digital) are 1.0 mono English, 2.0 stereo English, 1.0 mono French and 1.0 mono Spanish. (Contrary to what another reviewer here says, there is NO 5.1 surround soundtrack -- a sorry deficiency for a film originally released in 6-track.) IMPORTANT: On my copy of the disc, the DEFAULT soundtrack is the 1.0 mono English. There is no separate menu for selecting the audio you want, so you must press the AUDIO button on your DVD remote ONCE to get the 2.0 stereo English soundtrack. You'd think Fox would want people to hear the stereo track by default!
The good news is that the 2.0 stereo track is very clean, with the original 5-channel screen spread and directional dialogue faithfully preserved. It's not as full and crisp as a modern soundtrack, but remember that this was recorded forty years ago. If you listen with headphones, it's easy to hear how much of the dialog was re-recorded on a dubbing stage. In a few intimate scenes, though, the whirring of the camera is faintly audible.
Alex North's score has some nifty stereo effects, even if the title theme is disturbingly reminiscent of Strauss' Also Sprach Zarathustra.
The disc includes the complete roadshow presentation: modern-day introduction (with beautiful aerial photography and closeups of Michelangelo masterpieces), intermission music, entr'acte music and exit music. There is also a demonstration of the 65mm restoration process, and some trailers of other Fox epics from the 50s and 60s, including THE ROBE and THE BIBLE. (None of these extras are mentioned anywhere on the packaging.)
If you're hoping to savor the grandeur of the 60s widescreen epics, this disc will not disappoint."
The Grandeur that is Charlton Heston
T. Mark | 03/13/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The Ten Commandments, The Buccaneer, Ben-Hur, El Cid, Planet of the Apes, all great Charlton Heston movies to be sure. But this movie, Mr. Heston's performance as the passionate and complex Michelangelo Buonarroti, is without parallel in any of the previous or since roles he has played. His portrayal as the great artist is imtimate and shows a tender side. Futhermore, Rex Harrison as Pope Julius II is also extaordinary. The two men create a fine chemistry of the rebellious artist and the stern yet feeling pontiff who commissions Buonarroti to the great task of the Sistine. This performance peaks when the two men are standing beneath the great and not-yet-finished fresco late one night and reflect over the images of God and Adam-classic acting for certain. Please, buy it, rent it, just as long as you watch it. If you love art, I'm sure you will love this."
The Agony and the Ecstasy
Chris Gordon | FL | 09/11/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"A Movie dealing entirely with the struggle of two men to create a great piece of artwork amidst the conquests of a warrior pope in the Renaissance. The Agony and the Ecstasy relates the story of an unwilling Michelangelo, portrayed by Charlton Heston, forced to paint the walls of an ill-designed chapel, and who, through great thought, decides that if he must paint, then he will paint flawlessly. Rather than painting the portraits of the Apostles on the walls Michelangelo fills the entire dome of the chapel with beautiful, heart-filled murals depicting certain scenes from the bible. Also representing the attachment of Pope Julius II, Rex Harrison, to the project, Pope Julius is seen ignoring the field of battle to discuss the all-important artistry involved with such a massive project. Finally, the movie portrays the view of the Pope as being most powerful and commanding, able to have his every whim accomplished without delay.
Michelangelo may be seen as the perfectionist artist drawn into a long and grueling task against his will, but who decides that if he must put his name to something that it will be done right. "I was born to sculpt, not paint." He is repeatedly throughout the process asked "When will you have done," to which he always responds "When I am finished". Pope Julius II on the other hand is a despot who allows his warmer side to show only through his appreciation of art. Always greedy, and always in search of saving a ducat, Julius refuses to pay decent wages, but instead uses his title to force Michelangelo to do his bidding. It takes everything Michelangelo has just to convince the Pope to let him paint the chapel as he sees fit. "I will paint men as God made them: in the glory of their nakedness!" The Pope is seen in the movie to be more concerned with Michelangelo's submission than with the work of the Sistine Chapel. He always has to be in charge, even in private; for fear that any compassion would come across as weakness.
I enjoyed this movie and consider it one of Charlton Heston's better works, although he did over-act a little as such is his trademark. I found the prologue, although not necessary to the plot, a nice addition to the video in order to get a wider perspective of Michelangelo's plight in being ordered to paint. The image of the Pope and servant on the scaffolding discussing the work by candlelight is memorable and helped to make the Pope seem just a little more human. Overall, I like this movie, but I was left with the question of--Why, if the Pope is engaged with such bitter conflicts and is on the brink of annihilation, does Julius II make the painting of one of his chapels a top priority?"