Deciphering the Enigma of Vermeer’s Legacy
Close to Vermeer
Year Released: 2023
Runtime: 1h 18m
Director(s): Suzanne Raes
Language: Dutch and English with English subtitles
Where To Watch: Close to Vermeer opens May 26, 2023, at the Quad Cinema in NY, with national expansion to follow
RAVING REVIEW: CLOSE TO VERMEER is a documentary that drops us into the world of art, specifically the world of Johannes (Jan) Vermeer, a famous Dutch painter from the 1600s. This film, directed by Suzanne Raes, vividly depicts Vermeer's creative life and legacy and presents this behind-the-scenes look at the largest exhibition of Vermeer’s work ever.
Who was Vermeer, you ask? Known as the Master of Light, Vermeer left a legacy of just 37 pieces of art. These works have echoed through time, and in this documentary, they take center stage at Amsterdam's distinguished Rijksmuseum. Despite the iconic status of his creations, such as "The Milkmaid" and "Girl with a Pearl Earring," the man remains shrouded in mystery. Thus, this film serves a dual purpose: an examination of the intricate workings of the art world and a poignant exploration of the mysterious artist himself.
The film shows the unseen labor behind the art display, although I would’ve liked a deeper dive into this world and what goes into the process. It showcases how Raes and Rijksmuseum's dedicated team—Gregor Weber, Pieter Roelofs, Abbie Vandivere, and Anna Krekeler—created this remarkable show, making each process step a vital piece of the puzzle. Their collaborative efforts form the backbone of this documentary, offering viewers a unique perspective on the artistry of Vermeer.
CLOSE TO VERMEER has a unique flair, and it looks into Vermeer's life and artistic style, a subject of ongoing fascination and speculation. The film struggled to keep focus with its relatively short runtime; I would like to see what footage got edited out of the film to see if it could fill in the missing pieces.
As we follow the narrative, the focus naturally falls on Gregor Weber, the Vermeer expert, and Rijksmuseum curator, on the cusp of his retirement. Weber's ambitious endeavor to curate the largest-ever Vermeer exhibition forms the story's core. Together with fellow Vermeer enthusiasts, they decipher the man behind the name Vermeer, thus illuminating this legendary artist's brilliance.
Overall, CLOSE TO VERMEER offers an intimate journey into the mystique of Vermeer's life and the enigma surrounding his work. While I would have liked to see a more profound examination of the behind-the-scenes and historical aspects, the documentary still causes a reevaluation of our perception of art, instilling a deeper appreciation for Vermeer.
CLOSE TO VERMEER is a compelling watch for those with a passion for learning about art and a delight for seasoned art lovers alike. Suzanne Raes doesn't merely introduce you to Vermeer; she encourages you to see through his eyes, even briefly.
In summary, CLOSE TO VERMEER is a beautifully crafted piece of cinema that lets you peek behind the curtain of the art world right into the heart of a monumental exhibition. It's a visual feast that offers more than just a brush with the Master of Light, but an intimate encounter that will make you pause, reflect, and enjoy the fine art in all its glory.
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[photo courtesy of KINO LORBER]