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Film / The Agony and the Ecstasy

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The Agony and the Ecstasy is a 1965 film directed by Carol Reed.

It tells the story of the creation of the ceiling fresco paintings for the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican. The film is also the story of the trails and tribulations of the artist Michelangelo Buonarroti (Charlton Heston) and his patron, Pope Julius II (Rex Harrison), as they spar over money, Michelangelo's art, inspiration and a bit of the politics of the time.


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The film has examples of:

  • Celibate Hero: Michelangelo's love is not women, but art, as Contessa D'Amici learns by the end of the film. Legend has it this was done as an alternative to examining Michelangelo's alleged homosexuality.
  • Church Militant: The goal of Julius II is to expand control of the papal states, in his belief that a more independent church shall better be able to create peace through Europe.
  • That Cloud Looks Like...: God creating Adam, the inspiration for the famous fresco "Creation of Adam".
  • Corrupt Church: Receiving "donations" in order to create cardinals.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Julius II has his moments. For example, after reading a Take That! sonnet that Michelangelo wrote early on in the film:
    I have been compared to Lucifer, Beelzebub, the Antichrist... but never before Medusa! [...] This "presumptious Florentine" has been described as the master artist of the world... certainly a better artist than he is a poet.
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  • Determinator: Michelangelo and Julius II are both this, even when they need a little encouragement.
  • Deuteragonist: Pope Julius. He and Michelangelo might antagonize often each other but ultimately they want the same goal, a great painting on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.
  • The Film of the Book
  • Large Ham: Heston and Harrison both - so much so that they're practically doing Ham-to-Ham Combat in most of their scenes together.
  • No Social Skills: For all his artistic greatness Michelangelo has little to no understanding of what makes people tick.
  • The Noun and the Noun
  • Prolonged Prologue: The film starts with a 12-minute mini-documentary showcasing Michelangelo's greatest works. It was slightly abridged in general release and on the initial videocassette release to remove a dating comment about the then-whereabouts of the Pietà of St. Peter's.
  • Running Gag/Catchphrase: "When can [I/you] make an end?" "When [you're/I'm] finished."
  • Unflinching Examination: Michelangelo and Julius II meet as the pope prepares to invade a city so they can discuss Michelangelo's new ideas for the chapel ceiling. As they go over the sketches, enemy artillery goes off around them.
  • Warrior Monk: Julius II is introduced in the movie as a knight first, and as the pope second.

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