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Only a producer extremely confident of his ability would dare to make a full-length documentary of Michelangelo's life and work in which not one actor appears. Robert J. Flaherty, who filmed the Arctic classic, "Nanook of the North," is evidently a man with the necessary confidence; the fact that "The Titan" is both an artistic and popular success is proof that he has not deceived himself.
In producing "The Titan" Flaherty has employed the wise technique of letting Michelangelo's art speak for itself. The camera is usually focused on one of the Florentine Master's creations. At other times, it brings to the screen much of the environment in which he worked. The voice of Fredric March is on the sound track, narrating passages from Michelangelo's diary and a description of his career and works.
"The Titan" is a tour-de-force of camera work. Black and white photography is an entirely suitable medium for the two-dimensional translation of sculpture. Lighting which varies with the mood of each statue conveys much of the surface beauty of Michelangelo's work. Flaherty has also taken full advantage of the motion picture medium. In photographing sculpture, he has employed three kinds of movement: that of the camera, light, and the sculpture itself. The result is a dramatic and visually exciting presentation.
The background of Michelangelo's times is given by close-ups of panoramic drawings, portraits, and other contemporary documents.
It is, of course, too much to expect that any film can make a true penetration into Michelangelo's philosophy and the great creative spirit that inspired and maintained him. "The Titan," however, has managed to express a sense of the greatness of Michelangelo--the man and the artist.
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