Saturday, January 03, 2015
"Inside the Mind of Leonardo": The Renaissance Man's writings read on film, as if they were blogs, and an amazing "3D" presentation of how he saw his world
“Inside the Mind of Leonardo da Vinci” (directed by Julian Jones and Nick Dear), about the famous Renaissance man – painter, scientist and would-be inventor, gives us, in 85 minutes, a selection of all of Leonardo da Vinci’s writings, as spoken by Peter Capaldi. Had Da Vinci lived today, these would have been in books, blogs, or social media posts. All of Da Vinci’s ideas, exactly as they came to him, are unveiled. Da Vinci was indeed a polymath, but what lives best are his paintings and his sculpture. Da Vinci proposed solar power systems which a prescient for today.
Da Vinci worked as an apprentice in Florence at 16, and his talent overwhelmed his boss, who stopped painting. There is an early scene where, as a very attractive teenager (a different actor, almost reminding me of the movie “Boyhood” at the end) he plays with a cooperative wild falcon and explains his curiosity aboyt how birds fly and how the whole natural world really works. He questions the way the Church depends on interpreting the Bible so literally, and seems to experience Christianity as something that is a lot more subtle than the usual teachings.
The documentary is shot, in Tuscany, Milan and Florence, along with a lot of animation (such as simulations of Da Vinci’s flying wing invention) in Digital 3D HD, and engineered in such a way as to create a modest 3-D effect (whenever there is different motion at different distances) without the need for 3-D glasses. The photography is always crisp, and maintains focus at all different distance levels.
The film mentions the charges of “sodomy” and Da Vinci is widely believed to have had some romantic relationships or encounters with young men. The charges would be dropped (with the influence of the de Medici family). But Da Vinci’s comments on the subject are general and nebulous. True, he talks about physical perfection (in terms of geometrical relationships) as if they signified some kind of moral virtue (deserving "upward affiliation" as I call it). He experiences sexuality as something given to him, separate from everything else in his being, beyond any influence of rational choices. Is this an argument for immutability? He also made some comments that, without some degree of automaticity in (heterosexual) drives, human beings (and animals) could not reproduce and continue to exist. Apparently, he did hot father any children. That makes it ironic that author Dan Brown (“The Da Vinci Code” book and Sony film in 2007) finds deliberate clues to the idea that Jesus was married and fathered children in Da Vicni’s work. Indeed, Da Vinci might have believed this, presenting even more irony for his own homosexuality. None of this is acceptable to the Vartican.
The film presents several of his paintings, some of which are unfinished. The most famous is the Mona Lisa. I remember in ninth grade writing a short story “Who Stole the Mona Lisa?” with some characters whose physical descriptions were rather exaggerated as to virility.
The official site is here. The film was produced in large part by the History Channel, with Submarine Deluxe as the distributor.
I saw the film at the Angelika Pop-Up at Union Market in Washington DC. It’s a good thing I went by Metro (10 minute walk from NoMa) because one parking lot was closed and the lot looked full. The theater says it will build a full-sized facility across Penn Street in two years.
In 2005, the History Channel had produced “Da Vinci and the Code He Lived By” (2 hours), “Understanding the Da Vinci Code” (60 min) and “Beyond the Da Vinci Code” (120 min). The first of these was well acted and did go into Da Vinci’s homosexuality. Da Vinci seems to have carried a personality, unusual cognition and outlook that resembles that of Alan Turing.
Aerial view of Florence, Wikipedia link here.