Welcome to a cultural tour of Barcelona through the fantastical architecture of Antonio Gaudi.
The biography, “Antonio Gaudi,” ia a film that leisurely and artistically weaves its way down the path of the architect’s life work. Slow-paced and easygoing, this is the type of film one could expect to be shown in a general art history course. The film is comprised of both short photographic images and long stretches of filming, combining the work of Gaudi with its place in Barcelona and its culture.
Gaudi’s work resembles the picture that may pop into your mind when reading a fairy tale or nursery rhyme. Ornate, dense and detailed, the architecture rejects all rules to affect its own style. Anyone who has ever been to Barcelona can probably claim to have visited the Temple of Expiation Sagrada Familia, otherwise known as the Gaudi Cathedral. Beyond this grand gothic masterpiece, it is easy to miss his other works, which are randomly placed all over the city and extensively covered in the film. One building, Casa Mila, is given extensive coverage in the film because it is typical of Gaudi’s architectural style. He combines mosaic walls with scrap metal designs on ledges and balconies. The ceiling of an otherwise common office on Casa Mila bears the engraving: “Ah virgin Mary/ do not feel sad/about such small things/ for both flowers and stars are small.”
Gaudi’s control over space is fantastic. Light and shadow manipulate space and mood within every room. Each room in Casa Mila has a different theme and uses different designs, yet it is impossible to miss Gaudi’s touch.
Two facets of Gaudi’s work are his gothic style that he copies from churches built in the middle ages, and manipulation of lines and beams. Both these tastes are exhibited in the gothic exterior of Sagrada Familia. Within the cathedral is a winding staircase that plummets from top to bottom. Gaudi’s ability to curve the beams changes the space and owns the room it is placed in. The camera focuses on each example of this, especially in Casa Mila.
Gaudi’s architecture stands out because of his unabashed use of color. The brown, black and gray of most modern buildings are overshadowed by the colorful mosaics and stained glass of the Casa Mila. Gaudi steps outside of the norm without fearing disapproval from the masses. In fact, his outlandish design schemes seem to be embraced by the city. Gaudi’s ability to add color to his original and unique designs is what makes him fascinating. Even without background knowledge of art history, one can greatly appreciate his talent and the beauty he created.
Though mostly a non-verbal picture, the filmmakers include musical accompaniment by Toru Takemitsu, which ranges from classical music to whining post-modernist instrumentals. There does not seem to be much discretion about where to place the music within the film, as it often does not correlate to what is on screen. This does not take away from the film, but is merely an oddity within it.
Despite the touches of the 1980s that the film adopts due to its having been filmed at that time, this film about renowned architect Antonio Gaudi by Hiroshi Teshigahara promises a detailed view of Gaudi’s eccentric contributions to the beautiful Catalonian city by the sea. An architect who drew outside of the lines, Gaudi created something that has never been created before or since.