Rembrant (1936) Film Review

I watched this film a few nights ago on TCM.

It starred Charles Laughton as Rembrandt van Rijn. The film begins at the time in his life when he was very popular & accepted in society.

(Rembrandt van Rijn, Officers and Men of the Amsterdam Kloveniers Militia, the Company of Captain Frans Banning Cocq, signed and dated ‘Rembrandt f 1642’, canvas, 363 x 438 cm, Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum)

But after the death of his wife, Rembrandt’s artwork became darker. When he revealed his painting, “The Night Watch”, people were shocked & disgusted. They ridiculed & denounced the work. Rembrandt, who was once so admired, became a symbol of failure.

It is hard to imagine why this classic painting was so reviled & criticized.  Many people believed that it was just too dark, & needed more light. Others thought that it showed the militiamen as too ordinary.

Throughout the next several years, Rembrandt suffered financial troubles & bankruptcy. He attempted to find comfort in a maid whom he wanted to marry, but this relationship only brought more ostracism. A judge accused them of being immoral.

His lover became ill & died before they were able to marry. Rembrandt fell even further from his former success. He walked the streets a beggar.

The film ends with him painting a self portrait & quoting Ecclesiastes 1:2, “Vanity of vanities; all is vanity.”

Although some of the monologues in this film drag on too long, it is still worth seeing if you are interested in the life of artists, or if you just want to see some very interesting costumes.


Dante’s Divine Comedy Vol. 1: Inferno – A Short Review

The first book of 2016 that I have finished reading is the first part of Dante’s Divine Comedy, Inferno.

The edition I read is translated by Mark Musa & published by Penguin Classics.

Musa’s blank verse translation makes the epic poem flow effortlessly, & his commentary makes it easy to understand.

The beauty & horror of Dante’s vision has left a huge impression on me.  Graphic descriptions of sinners being punished in various levels of hell left me feeling shocked & horrified.

For example, Canto 28 begins:

“Who could, even in the simplest kind of prose

describe in full the scene of blood & wounds

that I saw now-no matter how hard he tried!”

That is a rather tame quote from the Inferno, but it is a great example of how the reader is left in anticipation of the horrors to come.

I recommend this translation of the Inferno to anyone like me who has never read Dante or The Divine Comedy before.