Rembrandt's Christ

Drawings of the Life of Christ

Anthony Roland's Rembrandt's Christ is a difficult film to define. More penetrating and demanding than a simple celebration of Rembrandt's drawings (though it is certainly that too), yet more imaginative and poetic than any formal study of the artist's graphic work, the film takes the form of a seamless sequence of images choreographed to the specially composed music of Henry Barraud.

The central theme is provided by Rembrandt's depictions of Christ which have never before been gathered together in this way; 160 drawings from sixty-two collections in twelve countries were drawn upon for the film. Rembrandt is shown to be one of the great geniuses of graphic art, and at a time when the authenticity of many of his canvases is being questioned, it is perhaps appropriate to look again to the more intimate medium of his drawings for an insight into the artist's real character. The film reveals the huge breadth of his techniques, from subtly modeled tone to almost violent pen strokes, sensitive fine line, or the almost oriental virtuosity of brush and ink (picked up in Barraud's occasionally somewhat oriental, staccato score). The film intersperses the images of Christ with other biblical motifs, and, significantly, with scenes of landscape and street life of Rembrandt's Holland: children at play, crowds gathering, men and women going about their business. The artist's models are his friends, neighbors and family.

The multi-layered nature of the film reflects the interconnections between Old and New Testaments, between past and present, and above all between sacred and secular life, which were universally felt in Rembrandt's day, particularly in Protestant Holland, where religion was being brought from the confines of church ceremony into the wider world of daily life. Thus in the film we see, for example, a parent and child such as those observed countless times by the artist in a domestic setting. Yet Rembrandt's addition of an angel to the scene immediately gives a biblical dimension, and in the same spirit the film director juxtaposes images from other drawings with it - images of violence that might anticipate the Massacre of the Innocents or Abraham's sacrifice of Isaac. Henry Barraud's score, meanwhile, gives musical expression to the concept of Christ as at once human and divine. There is no narration.

Reviews

'Of universal interest ... penetrates very deeply ... the mystery of creative activity in an artist of genius. And the result is a masterly film, which can, like a poem by Andrew Marvell or a sonata by Scarlatti, bear endless repetition, each time yielding something fresh and valuable to the spirit.' Arts Review, London

'An extremely important work in the History of Film ... an aesthetic work as an end in itself ... the spectator will feel extraordinarily enriched by deep thought and new ideas' From the book Christo nel Mondo, Assisi

Awards

Art Documentary of the Year, Assisi
Chriss Award, Columbus


Credits

Director: Anthony Roland
Original music: Henry Barraud


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Catalog number #300

40 minutes Monochrome

Age Range: 14 to Adult

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