Art on Screen Databasetm Full Record

© 1985-1997 Program for Art on Film, Inc. All rights reserved.

Click here to see an illustration from the film.

Original Title:
Series Title:
Edition Version:
Data: 9 min. col. 16mm; video
Year: 1988
Country of Prod'n: United States
Language: Nonverbal, with brief text in English shown on screen
Producing Agency: R/Greenberg Associates for the Program for Art on Film, a joint venture of The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the J. Paul Getty Trust
Sources: Museum of Modern Art Circ. Film Library; Films Incorporated Video
Int'l Sources:
Director: Richard Greenberg
Producer: Brian Williams; Lisa Fisher
Executive Producer: Robert M. Greenberg
Writer: Stephen Murray
Camera: Alain Derobe
Editor: Bronwyn Woodhead
Animator: Paul Johnson
Music Composer: Philip Glass
Art Consultant: Stephen Murray
Addl Credits: Graphic Des.: Sarah Abram; Asst. Camera: Olivier Benoist
Synopsis: Prologue to film: "The cathedral reveals itself through constant transformation. Constructed in multiple campaigns, victim of multiple structural disasters, it remains unfinished even today. Saint Peter's of Beauvais was begun in 1225 by a proud bishop who claimed to serve only the Apostle. A violent confrontation with the townsfolk and the king of France unseated the bishop and imposed a temporary halt on construction. Finished by 1272, the choir was increased in height, transcending all previous cathedrals. Its proportions, dimensions and extraordinary luminosity match the description of the Celestial City in the Book of Revelation: 'and her light was like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal.'" -- Stephen Murray A wordless celebration of a gothic cathedral: the camera is constantly in motion, shaping perception through movement as it explores the soaring space of the interior and the imagery of the stained-glass windows. The camera images are presented in a sequence that parallels that of the cathedral's construction. Aerial cinematography reveals the structural details of Beauvais's weathered flying buttresses and situates it in the landscape. A film by director Richard Greenberg and architectural historian Stephen Murray.
Genre Film: Visual Essay
Aud./Grade Level: General
Suggested Uses: General Information
Subject Headings: Architecture -- Gothic; Cathedrals -- Europe -- France -- Beauvais -- 13C

Assoc Concepts: Space
Artist's Name:
Artist on Camera: No
Awards: Intl. Film & TV Festival of New York Gold Medal, 1988
Evaluation: A visual poem, easy to look at, with a flow-of-time feeling of just letting the camera explore. Beautifully captures the amazing light and laciness of the structure, internally and externally--its "transcendent" Gothic lift. In aerial shots outside, you can see that it's unfinished. (How sad that the builders could never see it from the air!) Expressionist, nondidactic; emotional rather than intellectual. Presents the interesting question of whether an object (in this case, the cathedral) can stand on its own visual worth with a minimum of contextual information. For many evaluators, a good piece of film art, enjoyable as a visual (and/or sonic) sensation, if not completely successful: some (art historian) evaluators would have liked more attention and focus on details. The ideas in this film of moving around and over and through architecture hold possibilities for further exploration by filmmakers. Technical quality very good. Content and programming potential both very good to superior.

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