• Bible Films Blog

    Looking at film interpretations of the stories in the Bible - past, present and future, as well as preparation for a future work on Straub/Huillet's Moses und Aron and a few bits and pieces on biblical studies.

    Matt Page


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    Friday, August 29, 2008

    Peter Greenaway's Last Supper

    British filmmaker Peter Greenaway recently performed a one night only digital show using Da Vinci's "Last Supper". Greenaway projected a film on top of Da Vinci's original painting to an audience in the refectory of Santa Maria delle Grazie. There are two tantalising minutes of footage available at The Guardian's website which do enough to suggest that it would have been really quite impressive to be there without really satisfying the curiosity of those who weren't. Thankfully the paper also has a handful of images from the evening, reviews by Robert Booth and Jonathan Jones, and an audio file of the two of them in conversation with Greenaway himself. Both Booth and Jones give a good impression of what it was like to witness the show. The following snippet is Booth's:
    To the strains of modern opera, he used cutting-edge technical trickery to make Leonardo's Christ appear like a three-dimensional hologram while a radiant sun rose and fell over his head. He turned the original colourful image red, grey and black before the artist's gentle brush strokes were replaced with a chalk outline of the 13 figures, as if Leonardo had drawn a crime scene. Dawn broke, dusk fell and by the end the disciples had been dramatically cast into the shadow of prison-like bars.
    Like all good art, it appears to have created a good deal of debate even amongst experts on Da Vinci's work. Whereas one anonymous scholar considers it "cultural vandalism" another claims it "has reconsecrated the painting after Dan Brown deconsecrated it". Greenaway himself cited Da Vinci's reputation as an innovator in his defence.
    If Leonardo was alive now he wouldn't just be interested in film-making, he would be handling high-definition cameras and would be right up against the cutting edge experimenting with holograms...He would be fascinated by the post-digital age. I am sure that he would support entirely what we are doing, which isn't true of a series of academics who believe that this painting belongs to them and not to the world at large. This painting belongs to the laptop generation as much as it does to academia and we want to demonstrate that."
    Whilst I certainly see his point, I can't help but wonder who the audience actually was that evening. Did Greenaway really free the painting from the grasp of academics, or simply move it from one exclusive group of art critics for another? Thankfully it appears that Greenaway is hoping to find a gallery that could re-stage the show on a full size replica. I'm certainly hoping they are successful. It would be a shame if such an innovative and bold piece of art were only witnessed by a small, hand-picked audience of contemporary art experts.


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