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4.5 out of 5 stars
The Agony and the Ecstasy [Blu-ray] [1965]
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31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
This fictionalized account of the painting of the Sistine Chapel ceiling focuses on the battle of wills between the artist, Michelangelo (Charlton Heston), and his patron, Pope Julius II (Rex Harrison). As the story opens, Michelangelo, already an established sculptor, is commissioned by the warrior Pope to decorate his ceiling. Michelangelo doesn't want to do it, preferring to concentrate on the 40 statues intended for Julius' tomb. But the Pope wins that battle, the first of many, for the two men are equally matched in their stubbornness and pride. Renaissance Rome is finely recreated with great sets and costumes, not to mention the step-by-step painting of the ceiling.

Both Michelangelo and Julius are portrayed as stiff-necked, driven men who use reverse-psychology on each other to get what they want. The dialogue is literate, but each line is delivered like a grand speech. We learn a great deal about Julius as a man and not as much about Michelangelo. These are great performances by Heston and Harrison; they play men with monumental egos and ambitions but infuse them with human faults and foibles. A wonderful documentary over-view of Michelangelo's work that precedes the film would have been better at the end. I enjoyed the film almost as much as Irving Stone's novel, and that's saying a lot.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
When I am finished!

And so it be that that is the often repeated exchange between Rex Harrison's Pope Julius II & Charlton Heston's Michelangelo, and thus we have the basis for the film version of Irving Stone 's novel The Agony & The Ectasy. This is a fictionalised account of how Michelango came to paint his masterpiece on the roof of the Sistine chapel, focusing solely on the two main characters of the piece, The Agony & The Ectasy is a character and dialogue driven piece of work.

I'm not here to give you a history lesson on the Renaisssance painters or the background to Pope Julius II (The Warrior Pope) and his term of office, there are many well written comments on this site that revel in that side of things. I'm here purely as a lover of this film and to tell you that I do indeed love it regardless of the obvious historical failings. It spins a smashing story of two great men driven to distraction by each other on account of each respective mans' blustery ego, both men seemingly failing to realise that what irks them so, does in fact flourish the soul. Thankfully the two lead actors here put up a special show to carry the film with ease, both Heston & Harrison really getting their teeth into the roles to feed off each other with quality results, with one scene having Michelangelo goad Julius off his sick bed being particularly memorable. The toil and time consuming lengths that Michelangelo went to finish the wondrous ceiling of the chapel is perfectly captured by the pacing from director Carol Reed, and it's within this mindset that I personally feel engrossed with the characters from beginning to end. Though it should be noted that the film is not without moments of humour, some scenes shaking you away from the battle of wills to bring dashes of levity.

It's safe to say that one should avoid this film if they are after a searing costume drama infused with battles and death encompassing romances, this is purely for those after fine art, fine acting, and most of all, fine story telling. 8.5/10
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on 23 August 2005
This 1965 production of the "Agony and the Ectasy" an expensive production starring Charlton Heston as Michael Angelo and Rex Harrison as Pope Julius II is a very interesting example of the Hollywood movie making formula of the early 1960ths.
Adaptad by Philip Dunne from a novel by Irwing Stone the film
focus on the period of Michael Angelo's life during wich he painted the Sistine Chapel and explores his turbulent relationship with Pope Julius II. Although it may not be exact from an historical point of view constitutes nevertheless a wonderful piece of entertainment directed by veternan brithish director Carol Reed (The Third Man) with a second unit team by Robert D. Webb (Love Me Tender)and a wonderful cinemathography by Leon Shamroy (nominated for an academy award for this film!)
"The Agony and the Ectasy" is the kind of Hollywood epic that exibits superior production values and carismathic actors that will give the audience the felling of experiencing a special event. Essential purchase!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 14 January 2015
The perfect companion for all film enthusiasts is THE ROMA VICTRIX WINE BEAKERCalix Imperium, Roma Victrix Pewter wine beaker

Not a perfect film - some scenes are plodding - but I enjoyed it. The cinematography is great - particularly the scene where Michelangelo is arguing with the cardinals from the scaffolding. Rex Harrison's brings a great deal of pathos and humanity to Pope Julius II, a man who isn't often remembered sympathetically.

The film is at its best when Heston and Harrison are on the screen together, and flounders when they're not. To take two specific examples: The final scene before the intermission is much too on the nose, showing Michelangelo's inspiration in the clouds. Maybe it looked great projected in 70mm, but content-wise, it's just cheesy and on the nose. The first scene following the intermission has Michelangelo meeting Pope Julius at his camp during a battle, and showing Julius the plans for the ceiling while the battle takes place around them, and Julius is completely absorbed by the plans.

I also liked the little documentary prologue. A little background on Michelangelo's statuary work and time in Florence helps set the stage. It also solves a major problem that afflicts many movies about geniuses - Carol Reed is not an equal to Michelangelo, and nothing he or any director does narratively could show Michelangelo's genius as much as the work itself.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
There is no other film on the subject of art that is better than this one in my opinion. Irving Stone's best-seller was a great read, but in this case the film is better than the book. It centers on the creation of the Sistine Chapel ceiling, and the contentious but invigorating relationship between Michelangelo and Pope Julius II; one drove the other "to complete his work", and even their verbal battles were productive. It is about the courage of putting one's vision into reality, the hard work, and the faith in one's self and in God.
The script by Irving Stone and Philip Dunne is fabulous; the words flow like sweet wine and there is not a single unnecessary scene, or rarely one that is not meaningful. The direction by Carol Reed is meticulous, the cinematography by Leon Shamroy a marvel, and the score by Alex North adds much to the film. The costuming and sets are lavish for the papal quarters and the Medici household, and give one a sense of 16th century Rome, and the depictions of the fresco painting technique is interesting and educational.
Charlton Heston, gaunt and bearded, is brilliant as Michelangelo, as is Rex Harrison as the warrior pope. The interactions of these two actors is riveting, and the dialogue between them worth hearing repeatedly. Others of note in the cast include Diane Cilento as the Contessina de Medici, Harry Andrews as Bramante, and Tomas Milian as Raphael (the most famous papal portrait I know of is by Raphael, of Pope Julian II).
Though Stone's book and script take much artistic license, there is also a good deal of accuracy. This period of 16th century Italy was one of the most fascinating in all world history, and Pope Julius II was not only one of its greatest art patrons, but also an extraordinary man.
This is a film that moves me to tears with its beauty, and brightens my mind with its words. If you are interested in the artistic process, don't miss this magnificent film.
The film includes a Prologue, a mini-documentary of modern-day Rome and Florence, which traces Michelangelo's life, from his birth in Tuscany in 1475, showing his many wondrous works, including an early sculpture he did at the age of 15, through his death in 1564. Total running time is 139 minutes.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 15 March 2014
You can't make films like this
anymore: today Carol Reed's masterpiece
would cost too many millions. You
can't have stars like Charlton Heston
and Rex Harrison, costumes like those
made by Nino Novarese, set decorations
reproducing the paintings of the Sistine Chapel,and
the true atmosphere of the late Italian Renaissance...
A screenplay written by Philip Dunne (based on
the novel by Irving Stone), the collaboration of the
best technicians... Everything that was
still possible in 1965 when dollars could buy
almost everything in Europe and movie-stars'
salaries did not reach the sky.

The confrontation between two giants of the
sixteenth century, the della Rovere Pope Julius II( played
by Rex Harrison) and genius Renaissance sculptor
Michelangelo Buonarroti (Charlton Heston)is very well depicted
in the movie. You can feel the dramatic tension between the
very stimulating ambition of an art-loving Pope and the suffering
of a great artist in each and every scene . A film as good as
a course in the history of art, with an introduction
showing the most beautiful sculptures of Michelangelo.

A pure delight: five stars.

Elisheva Guggenheim- Mohosh, Geneva, Switzerland.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
This movie is based on Irving Stone's book the Agony and the Ecstasy. Charlton Heston gave an awesome performance as the obstinate painter Michelangelo commissioned by the Pope Julius the 2nd (Rex Harrison) to paint the ceiling of the Sistine chapel.The project became a battle of wills between the two men, fuelled by artistic temperament and differences. This a great story turned into a fascinating movie, played by two iconic stars of our time. It is very inspiring, poignant and emotive. A great entertainment. I recommend.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 5 June 2001
I thought this film was great,and then i read the book which has completely changed my life.I also think that the film chose a funny chapter in his life to portray and as amazing as the sistine ceiling is,i think there are better works and more exciting chapters in his life to know about.therefore...read the book.
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SAFE READING - NO SPOILERS

Charlton Heston as Michelangelo and Rex Harrison as Pope Julius II depict the central figures in this wonderful film film very well; the creative tension between the two, one trying to secure his legacy, the other wanting to carve a tomb, is the driving force behind the film and, of course, the creation of the Sistine Chapel ceiling.

It is an excellent film and, though not factually accurate and more glamorous than life would have been at the time, it is a splendid film which weaves its own magic. The physical, emotional, psychological and financial difficulties of creating this wonder on such a huge "canvas" against the backdrop of papal wars, are created in moving ways which bring the characters alive vividly.

Buy it, watch it and enjoy it.
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on 17 July 2015
If you have not seen this film then shame on you. A classic and a must for any art buff or anyone with an interest in Renaissance art or Michaelangelo. Charlton Heston goes up against Rex Harrison and tensions rise as the artist struggles to find inspiration to complete the fresco, which was not his forte, all the time Bramanti and Raphael linger in the background to add tension. The scenes are well filmed and directed and the scale of the production is such that you feel the artist's agony from producing producing such a work, remembering all the time that his main talent was as a sculptor not painter. Phenomenal film to watch again and again.
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