Best Documentary

Vermeer Beyond Time – Film Review

Vermeer Beyond Time – Film Review by Louise O’Meara

Written & directed by: Guillaume Cottet & Jean-Pierre Cottet
Starring: Pierre Arditi
Narrated by: Fiona Shaw

Lighthouse Cinema and at Selected Cinemas – Sat 13 May 2017 @ 12:30

The National Gallery of Ireland, in collaboration with the Musée du Louvre, Paris, and the National Gallery of Art, Washington have organised a remarkable new exhibition “Vermeer and the Masters of Genre Painting: Inspiration and Rivalry” that will run over the summer in Dublin, between the 17 June and 17 September 2017. The exhibition investigates the compelling relationships and works of Dutch genre painters, between the period of time 1650-1675, focusing on Johannes Vermeer.

To coincide with the new exhibition, an explorative new documentary by father and son team, Guillaume and Jean-Pierre Cottet, is being shown in cinemas and theatres across Ireland. The film chronicles the life of the mysterious painter, teasing apart many of his paintings and exploring each within the context of the time and the financial circumstances and societal standing of the painter. The documentary poses many questions about the painter and gently suggests possible personality traits that can be uncovered about the painter through analysing his art.

Vermeer wasn’t particularly successful in his time and had only one patron that bought most of his art; this was the main reason why after he died he fell into obscurity for two hundred years. Vermeer married into a family of moderate wealth, converting to Catholicism for his wife. Not much else is known about the painter’s life and so the Cottet’s documentary takes to his paintings for answers. Vermeer is known for his particular use of light and colour and his experimentation and explorations with perspective. The film beautifully honours this by imaginatively highlighting each painting that is to be discussed, dissecting each one so we can see how it was constructed and corrected. We are left with an impression of a sensitive, mysterious and dedicated man who had a deep appreciation of woman. Vermeer did not leave behind a great body of work, with only 30 odd paintings in known existence, it seems he was something of a perfectionist, taking sometimes two years to produce a canvas, but each painting is so intricate in itself that it’s difficult to mind.

This film is a very interesting watch and leaves the viewer with a sense of wonder about the time, effort and concentration that a single man put into recreating the perfect image.


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