(out of 5)
The life of Domenicos Theotokopoulos, the sixteenth century painter better known as El Greco, is examined in this wholly respectful but often clunky biopic. Nick Ashdon stars as the 16th century artist who began his career in Venetian-ruled Crete, went to Venice to study under Titian then later found himself hailed as one of Europe’s greatest artists in Toledo, Spain. Noted for his ability to turn any subject into a saintly, religious vision on his canvas, Theotokopoulos’s challenging, years-long relationship with a spiritually conflicted cardinal (Juan Diego Botto in a wonderful performance) leads to his being summoned to testify during the Spanish Inquisition where he skirts the possibility of execution. The film is blessed with sumptuous production values, especially gorgeous costumes and highly artistic photography, but the smorgasbord of international actors speaking badly accented English harms the film’s credibility (not helped by Ashdon at the centre of the project with a British accent). The final third, in which he delivers a bunch of passionate speeches on the subjects of art and religion, is meant to be a tribute to the power of expression, but mostly comes off as hokey rhetoric. Still, the film (which is the most expensive movie ever made in Greece), is an interesting look at one of the art world’s most impressive figures.
Alexandros Film, Generalitat de Catalunya – Institut Català de les Indústries Culturals, Graal, Greek Film Center, Hellenic Culture Organization, Hellenic Radio & Television, Instituto de Crédito Oficial, La Productora Vídeo Comunicació, Le Spot, Max Productions, Ministerio de Cultura, Motion Picture Public Foundation of Hungary, Multichoice Hellas-Nova, Municipality of Gazi, Municipality of Heraklion, Nova, Oktatási és Kulturális Minisztérium, TEDK of Heraklion, Talos, Televisió de Catalunya, Tivoli-Filmproductions, Whiskers Post Production
Directed by Yannis Smaragdis
Cinematography by Aris Stavrou
Music by Vangelis
Costume Design by Lala Huete
Film Editing by Yannis Tsitsopoulos