Rome IFF: Greenaway/Rembrandt’s “j’accuse”

Article published on Oct. 27, 2008
Article published on Oct. 27, 2008
"If Rembrandt were alive today, he would be a director,” said Peter Greenaway, who generously dispensed what he himself calls provocations rather than answers to audience questions at the Rome International Film Festival. His Rembrandt’s J'accuse, which opened the Extra sidebar, is the reconstruction/decomposition in 30 paintings of the theme from his previous film, Nightwatching.
That is, that the great Dutch painter’s “La Ronda” is an ironic accusation against the rulers of his city, full of clues and allusions to murder.

In the manner of an investigating judge, Greenaway carves out a frame within the image and shows us the theory of the accusation with many interviews with the events’ protagonists.

Analyzing these 30 clues, the director relates the political, economic, social and above all artistic context when the artist painted one of the four most-seen paintings in the world. Events that, however, could also seem to refer to current events.

Like all of the director’s films, Rembrandt’s J'accuse unfolds along various levels. There is the investigation of Rembrandt’s fall from grace caused by the powerful men who with his painting he wanted to accuse, as well as an important lesson on art history. Greenaway states that with the introduction of artificial light and the diffusion of mirrors, much light as well as many shadows and diverse perspectives emerged and the greatest painters of the era knew how to see them and convey their visions on canvas.

Greenway returns to his beginnings as a painter here and says he would like a cinema that is less textual and made up more of images, even though he begrudgingly admits that some of the biggest film hits of the recent years are based on literature, such as Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings. And he knows full well that he would never get to make a film if he were to present a producer with just four paintings.

Kicca D’Ercole