May 29, 2018  (Web Review)

Vermeer, Beyond Time

(2016) 90 min. DVD: $24.99 ($54.99 w/PPR). PBS Video ( SDH captioned. ISBN: 978-1-5317-0327-1.

Reviewer rating: 3.0/4

This PBS-aired documentary by filmmakers Jean-Pierre Cottet and Guillaume Cottet attempts to piece together the biographical and artistic mysteries surrounding Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675). Only three dozen of his works are known to exist (no sketches have ever surfaced), information on his formative years is scant, and there is no confirmed portrait of the artist. When Vermeer died in poverty at the age of 43, many of his artworks were sold off to pay his debts and his reputation faded into obscurity for nearly two centuries. Vermeer, Beyond Time offers a compelling examination of several Vermeer masterworks, describing at great length his brilliance in the areas of scene composition, lighting, and color. X-rays of the canvases show that Vermeer repeatedly revised paintings as he progressed, often removing individuals and primary focal objects in the process. The art history lessons here reaffirm the innovative artistry that Vermeer brought to his craft, but the film only briefly touches on the confusion in the posthumous appreciation of Vermeer—many paintings attributed to Vermeer were made by others, while some actually created by the artist were credited to more famous painters in an attempt to encourage more lucrative sales. Steve Martin’s narration is rather flat—especially set against the vibrancy of Vermeer’s work—but this is a minor quibble. Recommended. Aud: H, C, P. (P. Hall)