Rembrandt's early works matched the style of the times, so he met with fame the moment he arrived in Amsterdam, without really seeking it. He then marries the beautiful Saskia, and has everything he could wish for. Yet she dies years later, just when the painter's fall from grace begins. He refuses to compromise: when fashion demands light, colorful paintings he insists on thick impasto and shadows. In his private life he shuns all convention. Rembrandt is driven to bankruptcy and destitution by the powers that be, but solitude enables him to achieve the mystical fullness of his art.
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When we talk about Rembrandt, we often speak of genius, but rarely of revolution, yet he was the first person in the history of Western art to have fundamentally shaken up the idea of what a painting should be, the first to have changed the relationship between a painting and the person who looks at it. Before Rembrandt, viewers looked at the illusion created by paint. With Rembrandt, we look at paint creating the illusion. Herein lies the revolution. His fierce commitment to new directions and his rebellious way of life, flaunting all conventions, aroused people's suspicions, then their wrath, until all of society was out to get him. It succeeded in doing so, treacherously joining forces to betray him, driving him to bankruptcy and ruin. I wanted the film to reveal all this, and many other little-known things, such as his difficult family troubles (further adding to the chagrin of so many betrayals) and all the children and women that he loved and lost. And yet Rembrandt never lost his monstrous appetite for the 'visible' when it came to life and painting, illustrating as no one else could Nietzsche's phrase "A great work is always made despite all odds."
Charles Matton – Director