The Agony and the Ecstasy (1965, Michelangelo Biopic) – 9 /10 movie review

Cast / crew
Charlton Heston: Michelangelo
Rex Harrison: Pope Julius II
Producer: Carol Reed
Director: Carol Reed
Writer (Original Novel): Irving Stone
Diane Cilento: Contessina de’Medici
Tomas Milian: Raphael
Writer (Screen Story and Screenplay: Philip Dunne

Agony and the Ecstasy, Irving Stone’s The (1965)

Pope Julius II commissions Michelangelo to paint frescos of the twelve apostles along the roof line of the Sistine Chapel but the artist has trouble combating the ordinariness of it all. Seeking inspiration he destroys his already-started work and leaves. When he returns, he embarks on one of the greatest works of art of all time, no matter the cost.


This is a terrific movie which offers what feels like a real insight into the remarkable work of Michelangelo and specifically the creation of his masterpiece The Ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. It contains an all-time classic cinematic scene (the inspiration in the clouds) and a great dialogue scene (discussing the Creation of Adam on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel) but is consistently interesting, entertaining and illuminating. Heston’s Michelangelo is good but Rex Harrison’s Pope Julius II is awesome. Harrison has a strange ability to make whatever character he played seemed completely spontaneous as if he were just speaking naturally. This is despite his crisp, unwavering English accent, seemingly unemotional performances, and frequently challenging period or statesman dialogue.

This movie contains mild adult dialogue and mild unpleasant war scenes and nudity in paintings and sculptures.

Classified U by BBFC. Universal: Suitable for All.

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