Heston delivers a powerful, understated interpretation of one of the world's greatest artists, Michelangelo, in a film which features a complete replica of the Sistine Chapel, the largest indoor set in the world up to that time. The opening has Heston as the artistic rage of the
Renaissance, the Medicis, the most powerful family in Europe, showering him with fat commissions for his sculpting in Florence. He is summoned by Harrison, the shrewd and demanding Pope Julius II, then head of church and state, and ordered to "decorate" the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, a return
to fresco painting at which Heston bridles. He undertakes the Herculean task, encouraged by an old flame, Cilento. She is married to another, but devoted to the artist, nurturing him with food and paying his rent because Harrison ignores commissions due his artist. The work begins as a standard
fresco, disgusting the perfectionist artist who runs away to work in a rock quarry. The Pontiff's troops are later sent to find him. While working on a mountaintop, Heston sees a vision of what he is to do in a magnificent cloud formation. He returns to the chapel where he works on a towering
scaffold, lying on his back, the paint dripping onto his face, into his eyes, until he is almost blinded and falls from the scaffold, severely injuring himself, then resuming his incredible task while still ill. Continually harrassed over his years of effort by the impatient Harrison, Heston is
more than occasionally truculent.
The film is overlong, and the viewer begins praying that Heston will finish painting his interpretation of Genesis. Some stirring moments include Heston's seeking out models for his painting in local inns, hurriedly sketching the lined and dissipated faces of drunks, thieves and lepers, sources
that would have horrified the Pope, had he known, and the completion of God's infusion of life into man. Sixty-some technicians worked on the re-creation of the chapel ceiling, duplicating the masterpiece in eye-popping color, the completely scaled set in the de Laurentiis Rome studio costing many
millions. The study in genius almost overcomes the tedium of the production. Fox executives thought the film would provide enormous box office returns for the studio's $12 million investment but were shocked to see only one third that amount return in domestic grosses. Nominated by the Academy for
Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction, Best Sound, Best Music Score, and Best Costume Design.
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- Rating: NR
- Review: Heston delivers a powerful, understated interpretation of one of the world's greatest artists, Michelangelo, in a film which features a complete replica of the Sistine Chapel, the largest indoor set in the world up to that time. The opening has Heston as t… (more)