Rembrandt review – the life, loves and tragic end of the master painter | Film

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The 350th anniversary of Rembrandt’s death in 1669 is as good a reason as any to reissue this 2014 gallery film directed by Kat Mansoor, which took its cue from the blockbuster Late Works exhibition staged successively at the National Gallery in London and Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum. As ever, the exhibition on screen format – inspection of the paintings in situ, learned talking heads, biographical context – proves a sturdy frame through which to offer an alternative to the real thing.

Given Rembrandt’s status, and the roll call of events still to unfurl in 2019 – the “year of Rembrandt” – it is perhaps not surprising to find that this film, even with its relatively narrow remit, finds it hard to shoehorn everything in. Rembrandt was so varied and accomplished that it is forced to flit from topic to topic. Arguably, it is best as it sketches in the details of the painter’s convoluted love life: his wife, Saskia (who died in 1642), and lovers Geertje Dircx and Hendrickje Stoffels, both of whom contributed to long-term problems for the artist. These, the film contends, were the triggers for his late-life difficulties and debts resulting in his death in penury and a pauper’s grave.

But the film is not only concerned in wallowing in misery. It seeks to establish Rembrandt’s final years as a kind of freedom from social constraint. His troubles allowed him to dispense with the necessity of pleasing patrons and getting commissions, hence the blaze of glory with which he finished: the melancholy self-investigations, the shimmering history paintings, the intimate portrait studies. There may be too much to cover satisfactorily, but Mansoor’s film has an impressive try.

Source: The Guardian
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