The Agony and the Ecstasy starring Charlton Heston, Rex Harrison and Carol Reed is a realistic fiction based on the painting of the Sistine Chapel. In this movie Charlton Heston plays young Michelangelo who is being forced to paint a mural on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome by Pope Julius II, played by Rex Harrison. This movie is part documentary and part fiction. The characters were true to their form and the acting was superb. However the movie itself was not as captivating as I would have hoped. One interested in the history of the Sistine Chapel, or the life of Michelangelo should definitely watch this film.
The movie truly begins during an invasion of the City of Rome. In the next scene Pope Julius the Second is seen taking off his armor to ride through Rome, for he has declared that day of his visit a religious holiday.
However, one man was not following the Popes decision. Instead he, Michelangelo, chose to continue working on statues he was to finish for the church. Later on, Pope Julius confronts Michelangelo and assigns him the task of painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel where the Pope's tomb will be placed once he has died. Michelangelo tries to get out of it by claiming that he is not an artist but that he is a sculptor. Although, all attempts fail and Michelangelo is forced to paint a mural of what the Pope has assigned him. In the midst of his creation Michelangelo is involved in a love story with Lorenzo the Great's daughter, played by Carol Reed. Nothing more then friendship comes out of their relationship though. In the end Michelangelo rebels against the Pope and paints his own creation of what God has put in his heart on the ceiling. Fortunately for Pope Julius II, who is ill towards the end of the movie, he is able to live to see the completion of the Sistine Chapel.
In the first twenty minutes of the movie it is all a documentary on Michelangelo's sculptures. I enjoyed being able to absorb a little history about the artist before going into the actual storyline of the movie. I had a fear that the entire movie was going to in documentary form but it ended up to be an actual story, with suspense and romance.
The actors used to portrayed Michelangelo and Pope Julius II were excellent. They mastered their parts with true emotions. Both actors gave believable performances and did not go to extremes in any scene. The characters had good personalities to work opposite each other.
However, even though the acting was magnificent the props were not. Given the time period this movie was filmed, one must understand that technology was not as advanced as it is today. I also feel that the storyline was not as captivating, or engaging as it could have been. The story got dull at parts and most of the movie was not very upbeat, or lively. Some of the scenes dragged on for longer then needed and sometimes even over exaggerated the scenario occurring. For example when Michelangelo is working late and his vision is blurred. That scene, I felt, was over played. It was obvious that he was working too hard and not getting enough rest; the movie didn't need to emphasize his weakness as much as it did.
This film would not have been one of my first choices to watch. It was historically correct at times, and at times pure entertainment. The acting was excellent even though the props were unrealistic and the storyline dragged on. I would give this movie one and a half stars out of four. This rating is for the lack of excitement and the slow pace the movie flowed in.
Bibliography: The Agony and the Ecstasy starring Charlton Heston, Rex Harrison and Carol Reed