Rating : ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
Availability: At theatres
Storyline: The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam is currently exhibiting the most comprehensive retrospective of paintings by Johannes Vermeer, one of the great 17th century Dutch masters. Hailed as ‘a miracle’ by The Guardian and ‘breathtaking’ by The Times, the exhibition and the gallery itself is magnificent. But before you book your flights, I’m afraid it’s been sold-out for months. But there is good news – this documentary of the exhibition is almost like being there. It is one of an increasing number of documentaries by ‘Exhibitions on Screen’ that enable us to see major art exhibitions at the very time visitors are seeing them. They are first released in theatres, and then later made available as a fee-based streaming option (https://seventh-art.com/product-category/exhibition-on-screen-2/). The Vermeer documentary brings to the screen his most famous masterpieces, along with insightful analysis from experts associated with the Rijksmuseum.
Film-craft: Vermeer died in financial hardship at the age of 43, leaving no diaries, letters or documents to help the filmmaker build a broader picture of the artist and his life. So what director David Bickerstaff has done in this film is to provide an unhurried opportunity to look long and hard at the artworks themselves and through that contemplative experience better understand the artist himself. The result is satisfying and highly effective.
Cast: Robert Lindsay is the narrator of the the documentary but it is the experts, including the staff of the Rijksmuseum, whose vast knowledge, expertise, and passion brings the stories within the paintings to life.
Personal Comments: This splendid production gives us a glimpse into the world of Rijksmuseum and the curation of the outstanding Vermeer exhibition. The gallery is beautiful, and the paintings are sublime in their depiction of light and colour. The Times calls this documentary ‘thrilling…your ticket to the show of the century’, which is high praise indeed. It is a must-see for art-lovers. In fact I think I might even prefer the leisurely, exquisitely presented and expertly informed film experience of the exhibition to the crowded, continuous herds of humanity peering over the heads of the people in front…but then perhaps I’m just getting old.