What You Need To Know:
( L, S, V,); some mild obscenities; fornication; and, violence.
The two-part mini-series, A SEASON OF GIANTS, treats the viewer to that unparalleled time in history, the Italian Renaissance.
The story begins in Florence in 1492 as Lorenzo di Medici, the political and cultural leader of Florence, lies near death. With his passing, a period of great unrest begins as the city is torn apart by warring political and religious factions.
Thus, seventeen-year-old Michelangelo, Lorenzo’s artist-protege, finds himself stripped of his influential patron’s financial support and leaves the city to develop his craft elsewhere. He travels to Bologna, and later to Rome, where he establishes his reputation as a master sculptor, creating such works as THE BACCHUS and his first PIETA.
Prior to Medici’s death, the fiery Dominican priest, Savonarola, preaches against vice and worldliness. Uncompromisingly severe in his condemnation of what he considers the paganism of the times, Savonarola calls for a regeneration of spiritual and moral values, and a devotion to asceticism. A sampling of Savonarola’s severity comes through as he administers last rites to the dying Medici: “You must answer your God… you have given the people tyranny under the guise of freedom.” However, when Savonarola’s popularity later wanes, he is hanged for schism and heresy.
In time, Michelangelo returns to Florence to create his first masterpiece, THE DAVID. Trying to decide how to top this monumental work, however, the leaders of Florence commission him to work in direct competition with Leonardo da Vinci who has just completed the MONA LISA. Da Vinci brings additional artistic strength to the project, and his work reveals a power of invention and sublimity of spiritual content that are striking.
At first, a spirit of rivalry is set up between Michelangelo and da Vinci, but soon, they become fast friends, and in their overall work, each complements the other. Incredibly, too, a potentially third outstanding artist, Raphael of Urbino, joins Michelangelo and da Vinci in Florence to learn from them.
The film portrays Raphael as a lady’s man with numerous women following him wherever he goes. Before long, he takes up with Onoria, Michelangelo’s muse, who becomes his lover. One of Raphael’s most well-known works, THE SCHOOL OF ATHENS, reflects his artistic contribution as that of being the clearest expression of the exquisite harmony and balance of High Renaissance composition.
Another important personage in A SEASON OF GIANTS is Pope Julius, II, who encourages artistic endeavors and wants Florence to be known as a center of art. Thus, he becomes a patron to Michelangelo and other artists and gives them assignments for what he hopes will be unequalled works of art.
Throughout this film, we witness Michelangelo’s temperamental nature as he quotes frequently from Dante’s THE DIVINE COMEDY and tangles with one person after another, including Pope Julius, II, but then usually comes to terms with them.
Two profound statements that reflect Michelangelo’s and da Vinci’s artistic visions can be understood in the following remarks. Michelangelo, as he assesses a block of marble suggests to his companion, “There’s a figure in there, struggling to get free.” His desire as a sculptor was to “free” whoever it was from his marble prison. Da Vinci, by contrast, advises young Raphael that “Your strength is in your solitude.”
While A SEASON OF GIANTS is provocative and quite well done overall, with fine performances and historical accuracy, to some extent it seems rather contrived and artificial. Most likely such artificiality occurs because of the compression of this monumental time in history. To be fair, portraying each of these “Giants” (plus other important figures) accurately and completely is nearly an impossible task. Moreover, the story line follows Michelangelo’s life most closely and shows the vicissitudes of his artistic genius.
A SEASON OF GIANTS would be well worth seeing and highly recommended for the whole family if two scenes did not contain sexual immorality: Michelangelo’s dream of possessing Onoria, and Raphael’s possessing her in actuality.
However, we can appreciate the tremendous genius of these artists, and it brings to mind the Scripture: “working with his hands the thing which is good” (Ephesians 4:28). Thus, the Italian Renaissance artists can provide us with an admirable example and tenet, something rare in these days of bogus heroes and distorted values.
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