Icons Are Windows Upon the Eternal
Karl Henning | Boston, MA | 12/26/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a fabulously beautiful documentary of iconography of Christ through the centuries, and the narration and background music are overall (i.e., in spite of occasional oddities) perfect complements. I sort of wonder why Mel Gibson and Ricardo Montalban were asked to serve as narrators here, but Gibson gets extra points for pronouncing Hagia Sophia so creditably :-) The bit where the computer graphics move from face to face is marvelous. The music for the interior of the cathedral at Chartres is, surprisingly, rather brutal; and (I think I remember this running during a shot of San Giovanni in Laterano) the synthesized "How Lovely Is Thy Dwelling Place" from the Brahms German Requiem is an odd choice, though it doesn't sound godawful. For me, a composer with an artist wife, the low point was some of the (by turns) hideous and sickly-sweet modern stuff, because it is certainly possible to do new work which is beautiful, and to do beautiful work which is not saccharine - and iconography of Christ ought to be beautiful, and ought not to be sugary. But these moments occupy relatively little space. Occasional weird things in the narration - how, exactly, are Christ's features in Michelangelo's "Final Judgement" in the Sistine Chapel those "of Apollo"? - there is glancing reference to the Sistine Chapel being the "most private chapel in the world," yet considering the flood of tourists which passes through it every day, it is actually, more likely, the most PUBLIC chapel in the world. For the most part, though, the narration is simply informative, and balanced. Our century, with its own morbid preoccupations, holds the grotesque work of Hieronymous Bosch in high regard; and the narration rightly says that it inspires horror; we then move to the Chartres cathedral, and quotations from the age to the effect of the beauty of the architecture and art raising our earthly souls to an awareness of heaven - and here, in this seeming aside, we have the heart of iconography. The depiction of Christ serves a spiritual purpose, it is not a mere exercise for a modern artist to express his personal dissatisfaction with the world around him (like the Belgian artist who self-servingly "equates" public dislike for his "art" with the sufferings of Christ ... puh-leeze ... his beef is with an allegedly "cynical and stupid" public, but perhaps he should have taken a good look in the mirror).But these (for me) flaws are abundantly compensated for, there are wonders which space does not allow for much more than listing ... the ancient Ethiopian icons, with the peculiarly primitive heads, no less devotional; a peek at Raphael's "Triumph" in the Stanza della Segnatura in the Vatican (in the same room facing the School of Athens, though generally less famous except to artists and theologians); the incomplete sculpture Michelangelo had intended for his tombstone; Rembrandt's self-portraiture in the Crucifixion (i.e., one of those raising the cross ... nothing like the self-proclaimed martyrdom of the Belgian, above) and the Descent from the Cross; the Veronica icon, and the Pantocrator from the monastery at Mt Sinai.Some wonderful surprises, too, such as the "three-headed" Latin American depictions of the Trinity which, while they are dubious as iconography, are fascinating cultural and artistic documents; and a Latin American Last Supper, featuring a roast pig at the Passover which must be a visual malopropism for the ages ....Beautiful, stunning and informative."
"the image of the invisible God"
Alejandra Vernon | Long Beach, California | 04/04/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"From the earliest images of Jesus to modern time, this documentary covers an enormous variety of styles, from many countries. One glaring omission, is that it does not include any Russian icons, but that aside, this is worthwhile viewing for anyone interested in the history of Christian art. Many of the world's masterpieces have Jesus as the central image, and this film starts with some of the best, by Giotto, and his fabulous frescoes in a 14th century chapel in Padua. Among the myriad of images, some of my favorites are an exquisite statue, probably the earliest known (about the year 290) of a young Jesus as "The Good Shepherd" from the Vatican, the work in the St. Catherine Monastery at Sinai, many replicas of The Mandillion, the original which is said to have been lost in a fire, and "The Light of the World" by William Holman Hunt, a 19th century English artist.
There are the great masters like Michelangelo, Leonardo, Rembrandt, and Grunewald, as well as 14th century Ethiopian images, Latin American art, some from Asia, and one from India in the Islamic tradition that is a curiosity piece.
It also examines illustration in the most widely distributed image of Jesus, Werner Sallman's "Head of Christ", as well as more contemporary examples by African American folk artist William H. Johnson, Marc Chagall, and Andy Warhol.
It ends with the extraordinary stained glass windows at the Notre Dame Cathedral.Written by Dr. James Clifton and directed by Craig MacGowan, one of the visual techniques this film uses to great effect is the morphing of many images. It has several narrators, among them Mel Gibson, Edward Herrmann, Ricardo Montalban and Patricia Neal, and has a wide array of musical selections as a soundtrack. Filmed in widescreen, the color reproduction is excellent, and total running time approximately two hours.
As many call Jesus "the image of the invisible God", and man has been made in God's image, this documentary states, "is it any wonder that the faces given to Christ are as numerous as the peoples of the earth"."
Great technique to assemble/parse such a vast amount of info
fCh | GMT-5, USA | 04/24/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"this is a clever work which looks at the evolution (and not much at the history!) of the representation of jesus's face, over a period of time overlapping christendom. not sure how comprehensive it is but it seems so. at the limit, it could be viewed as a good timeline of (christian) iconography.full rich with spectacular visuals brought about by the use of morphic transformations. when the show is over, the viewer is left definitely thinking.it appeals well to those interested in the history of religions (especially christian), art historians, and everybody in between."
Elle McCall | 01/30/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I purchased this movie for a Spirituality in Art humanities class and I wish I had only heard of it sooner! Stunning images, nice selection of narrators, and none of those preachy annoying professors being interviewed. I hate that part of "educational tv" where the expert just shows off. None of that here. An excellent look at representations of the Savior through many cultures. A must have."