Movie review by Dennis D. McDonald
At first I was afraid this was going be a film of a stage production but it evolves into a series of dramatic tableaux featuring extraordinary lighting, costumes, and emotional histrionics straight out of Rembrandt’s paintings.
While you puzzle your way through the story you see gorgeous images that seem entirely appropriate for the time (Amsterdam in the 17th Century). Not everything makes sense the first time through. At times it’s hard to say what is the director’s imagination and what is historically accurate.
The story surrounds Rembrandt’s famous painting The Night Watch. Greenaway interpolates a murder mystery into the drawn out process of the painting’s creation. It seems outrageous but is extraordinarily well crafted.
No matter. What we have here is perhaps the most creative and dramatic presentations of an author’s life ever committed to screen. The non-linearity of the story and profusion of characters are confusing at times but you get used to that. Rembrandt is on stage here and we see the inner workings of his confident and arrogant artistic self on full display.
Review copyright (c) 2011 by Dennis D. McDonald
Director Greenway also created, using scenes from the movie, sets, and actors in costume, a documentary that purports to show how the elements in THE NIGHT WATCH painting can be interpreted as an “accusation of murder” of one of the painting’s subjects. Whether you believe the “accusation” or not, the documentary is intensely interesting and educational and explains a lot of the significance of the movie that you might miss the first time through.