When people of an older generation tell you “they don’t make films like they used to”, this is probably one of the kind of films they’re referring to. And it’s a mixed blessing. It’s true that this is a solid example of a calmer, more sedate style of filmmaking that is all but extinct nowadays. Editing is kept to a minimum, the pace is kept slow, and there seems to be an encouragement by the filmmakers to ignore the plot and just soak in the scenery, whether it’s the recreation of 15th century Rome as Michelangelo and the Pope butt heads over the painting of the Sistine Chapel, or long, lingering shots of the painter’s work itself. The film is more of an excuse to soak in sumptuous visuals, rather than tell anything approaching a compelling story. Nowadays, editing plays a much more prominent role in most mainstream films, the amount of cuts per second has increased exponentially and pacing is several gears higher (probably due to what your parents will complain about as a “lack of proper attention span”).

The other side to this of course is that older films like this are often crushingly boring. Even with all the best will in the world, there’s no denying that there’s barely enough of a story here to contain a 40-minute documentary, let alone a feature film that purports to be some kind of character study. Films aren’t paintings any more, they’ve become something more dynamic – they reflect a society that moves faster now, and overloads its citizens with information. Every artform should do this – evolve to suit the world in which it is made. If you don’t, you end up standing still, and people don’t watch your films any more. And who remembers this one?

THE AGONY AND THE ECSTASY
They don't make 'em like they used to - true, and ain't that a double-edged sword5
Scenery, use of colour, composition and cinematography9
Alex North's sweeping, emotionally-charged score9
Lack of plot and characterisation5
Being old-fashioned, if you're not careful, can Ultimately lead to being kind of boring5
Bechdel Test Passes
  • n/a
Bechdel Test Failures
  • I'm pretty sure there's only one named female character
7Overall Score

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