The characters in this dramatization of the making of the Sistine Chapel walk around so assured of their own self-importance, they barely have the ability to listen to each other.
From this era of filmmaking, there may be no actor better suited to playing self-importance as Charlton Heston. His Michaelangelo is both tortured by his own artistry, and his relations with the people he works for, in this case, namely the Pope.
Consider this exchange. Michaelangelo is asked "Do you want to finish that ceiling?" He responds with "More than my life." The words are too purposefully dramatic to have sincerity. That's typical of the film as a whole.
There's a scene where Michaelangelo is working alone, late at night, and he starts to hallucinate. He's been working on this project so long and is so dedicated to the detriment of his own upkeep, the reality of his work overwhelms any other reality he might be in. What follows is an almost comical snippet of action movie as he bounces around the scaffolding grabbing onto the ropes and whatever within reach that may provide security.
This bit enables us the film to create a question of whether the ceiling will ever be finished. What an odd question to pose in a film when there is enough apparent expectation in the audience to know of the fact of the Sistine Chapel's ceiling and that it was indeed finished. When well-known outcomes are unknown to the characters, the proper thing is to let those characters express what they are going through and take the emphesis off the plot. Otherwise, we feel pandered to.
On the plus side, the film is pretty, what with all the graniose sets that were common back in the day. Making the Sistine Chapel was probably similar in effort to the making of this set. I'm also quite pleased by the momentary touch of Michaelangelo and the Pope mouthing words at each other through the scaffolding during some sort of ceremonial procession.
It's not enough to save the film - like the wretched, self-important artist that is portrayed, the constant contentless prattle becomes too much to bear.
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