I was hoping to compose this as one of three movies by Russian director Andrei Konchalovsky. Considering his most recent movie, Dear Comrades! is still out on virtual platforms and Paradise is also on Prime, I felt that it would be interesting to write an article based on all three and find common themes, etc. As it stands, I’ll make this one merely a capsule.
Forget the Hollywood-helmed, larger-than-life bio-pic starring Charlton Heston and Rex Harrison from 1965. Konchalovsky’s Sin (Il Peccato), which has just exited Film Forum, presents a messy period in Michaelangelo’s life during the time he had just finished the Sistine Chapel and was set to sculpt the tomb of Pope Julius II.
Pity anyone living in the time of the Renaissance. Cities were covered in filth and feces, life seemed only barely removed from a hellish nightmare of oblivion and meaninglessness. Meanwhile, competing families De Rovere and the Medicis fight (via heated arguments, and backhanded manipulation) to secure the hand of Michaelangelo as the artist to produce works of artistic immortality. Meanwhile, Michaelangelo (Alberto Testone, far removed from Heston), whom we never see inasmuch as draw a line, mopes, screams, tortures himself and all who surround him and walks around under a dirty cloak of genius. An extended sequence in which the while marble that will make the famous papal tomb marks the movie’s only moment of extreme suspense. The simple act of moving it from its place in the Carrara mountains gives the movie an edge-of-your-seat sense of dread. After that, Sin plods along, at times fascinating, and at times truly mired in misery, to a climactic scene that involves Dante Alighieri himself in what might be a vision of Heaven or Hell itself.
Konchalovsky’s movie often ventures into fevered dreams that meld seamlessly with reality. An early sequence sees Michaelangelo wander into town and see his David, derelict and lonely, in front of a gallows where an unfortunate man hangs. Never hagiographical, this Michaelangelo is narcissistic and selfish, abusive, and greedy. You can almost smell the filth that clings to him and wonder, “Could this hobo actually have produced what the world knows as the greatest works of art?” The answer, surprisingly, is yes.