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Movie Review

Movie: The Agony and the Ecstasy
Starring: Charlton Heston, Rex Harrison
Released: 1965
Directed by: Carol Reed
Rated: NR

available at

Synopsis: Charlton Heston stars in this chronicle of the famous Michelangelo Buonarotti’s work on the ceiling of the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel during the Italian Renaissance. The movie gives an excellent account of the technical and artistic difficulties Michelangelo encountered in the course of completing a work of such great magnitude. Also explored are the artist's emotional triumphs and disappointments and his frequently antagonistic relationship with Pope Julius II who commissioned the work and whose goals often appear to be self-serving in nature.

Editor’s Review: The first time I saw The Agony and the Ecstasy was more than 20 years ago. Apparently it really made an impression on me because I remember Michelangelo’s method of transferring images to the ceiling so clearly, that I used the same method myself for painting a large mural in a school cafeteria. I have seen it another time since then. Unfortunately for Michelangelo, convincing played by Charlton Heston, there seems to be far more agony than ecstasy. Pope Julius II, played by Rex Harrison, doesn’t hesitate to exert pressure on the passionate yet complex artist who really wants to sculpt instead of paint. But the Pope knows what he wants and how to get it and Michelangelo gives in. Despite their contentious relationship, I felt satisfaction in knowing that it was the Pope’s nagging that provided the necessary impetus for Michelangelo to create one of his greatest masterpieces. I found the technical details of how the Michelangelo’s vision was executed to be fascinating and I learned a lot about Michelangelo’s life, his work and history all at once. The fact that The Agony and the Ecstasy was released 40 years ago doesn’t matter a bit – there is no over-dramatizing or inappropriately stilted language, just all the grandeur that make it a classic. If I see a movie more than once, it has to be good.

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Diana Blake is a professional artist and art history enthusiast. Her fascination with art history began when she encountered European art firsthand during several trips abroad as a young adult. As she began to compose a portfolio for her own art career, she called upon what she had seen in Europe and extended her knowledge to other styles of art through profuse reading and exhaustive research. As a result, Diana has written more than one hundred articles in which she delves into a variety of art history topics and she has compiled a list of links that she believes to be invaluable for art history enthusiasts. In addition, she also reviews books and movies on the topic of art history and has assembled an extensive list of online stores that sell books, movies and gift items related to art history.
   You can see Diana's own artwork by visiting her site at