Charlton Heston and Rex Harrison portray two of the Renaissance's most colorful figures in this historical drama based on Irving Stone's best-seller. When Pope Julius II (Harrison) commissions Michelangelo (Heston) to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, the artist initially refuses. Virtually forced to do the job by Julius, Michelangelo later destroys his own work and flees Rome. Nominated for an Oscar for Cinematography and named one of the year's best films by the National Board of Review, The Agony And The Ecstasy is a fascinating dramatization of the battle of wills behind one of the world's artistic masterpieces.
Adapted from Irving Stone's fanciful biography of Michelangelo and starring Charlton Heston as the artist, THE AGONY AND THE ECSTASY focuses on the five years that the artist spent creating the Sistine ceiling and his tumultuous relationship with Pope Julius II (Rex Harrison). The pope is a vain and ambitious sort who has commissioned the painting of the chapel with the intention of having his name preserved for posterity. To this end, he tries to bully and threaten the volatile painter, who is answerable only to his muse.
Much of what appeared in Irving Stone's biographical novel of the life of Michelangelo was of the author's invention, but few will dispute that the artist painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, which is the subject of Carol Reed's film. Starring Charlton Heston as the irascible genius, it traces his life from the age of 13 to his death at 88 but deals mainly with the five years during which he painted the chapel. Pope Julius II (Rex Harrison) has commissioned the work in the hope that it will serve as an immortal symbol of his enlightened papacy. Yet both his money and remaining years are finite, and his constant haranguing of the artist to finish his painstaking work is the source of an ongoing war of words between them. When not struggling with the pope, Michelangelo battles with his physical limitations and recalcitrant materials in the quest for perfection. The multifaceted Carol Reed (OLIVER!, THE THIRD MAN) has successfully taken on yet another genre in a film that also features superb art direction and costume design.
Art / Artists |
Period Piece |
Personal Triumph |
The film is based on the novel by Irving Stone, which recounted in detail Michelangelo's life from birth to death.
The film was rumored to have cost $12 million; it allegedly earned back only $4 million.
It is one of the first group of films produced under Darryl F. Zanuck upon his return to 20th Century Fox.