Greetings again from the darkness. Whenever you start to feel confident – even a little cocky – about how good you are at your job, stop for a moment and consider Leonardo da Vinci. How is this for a dose of humility? Even today, Leonardo is still considered one of the foremost painters, sculptors, inventors, engineers and mathematicians. This despite no formal education … and dying almost 500 years ago! It makes you wonder what he could have accomplished with computers and the internet.
History Films and director Julian Jones were provided access to Leonardo’s private notebooks, drawings and journals … more than 6000 pages that range from shopping lists, to mechanical inventions, to nature drawings. This Docu-Drama is presented in the unique manner of casting actor Peter Capaldi (Dr Who) as the interpreter of Leonardo’s words and works. He facilitates the movements between Leonardo’s childhood (as an illegitimate kid) in Tuscany, his move to Florence at age 16, his nearly two decades in Milan, and subsequent return to Tuscany where he spent 15 years painting a merchant’s wife … a painting now known as the “Mona Lisa”.
Playing very much like an educational tool designed for junior high and high school students, the film is also is an engaging way to present some insight into history’s single most observant and curious deep thinker. We see and hear Leonardo’s thoughts on war strategy and weapons, the geometrics of the human face, tips on fitness (“eat only when hungry”) and of course, his obsessions with human flight and anatomy. Beyond that, the journals offer a taste of his sense of humor and thoughts on sexual desire. It’s clear his thoughts bounced from topic to topic, and his sense of wonder created a never ending flow of ideas. While we often term it observation and analysis, Leonardo’s words are translated into experiencing something and then seeking out the cause. Newly filmed images are blended with Leonardo’s own drawings to keep the viewer on track.
Vitruvian Man is one of the more iconic images seen throughout society, and Leonardo’s painting “The Last Supper” has been copied and reproduced frequently. Although he died in France at age 67 having finished only 21 paintings, and having most of his inventions survive in theory only, the breadth of his knowledge and writings explain why the phrase “Renaissance Man” was coined to describe Leonardo (as well as Michelangelo). The film offers an entertaining and engaging introduction to Leonardo da Vinci, and today’s “thinkers” will undoubtedly be inspired to learn more.