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Thursday, February 12, 2009
PIFF film # 7 - Nightwatching
Rembrandt van Rijn. A creator of masterpieces. A legend in his own time. And a guy who was really quite randy. I saw one of his most famous paintings, the colossal-sized The Night Watch, up close during an ill-advised trip to Amsterdam a few years ago. I remember being handed a laminated piece of paper offering details of all the hidden meanings in the painting but nothing about the murderous accusations it may or may not contain.
While the Rijksmuseum may shy away from these allegations and rumors, Nightwatching doesn't, diving full-bore into the legends surrounding the museum's most famous painting and the artist behind it. According to the film, Rembrandt was not only daring and weird when it came to his personal relationships (at one point he mischievously attempts to sketch his wife's womb as she's giving birth), he was pretty bold in his studio as well. After hearing about the deplorable crimes of a local militia group who he's been commissioned to paint, he sets about reveling their twisted hobbies through art and metaphors on a gigantic canvas.
Nightwatching is the sort of movie I wish my high school art teacher had shown in class instead of dreary public broadcasting documentaries about Renoir. While the film falls apart in the last act as it hastily tries to sum up Rembrandt's decline through convoluted conspiracies and an odd series of encounters with an orphan who may or may not be the angel of death, it's a solid costume drama.