Tim Jenison, a Texas-based inventor, attempts to solve one of the greatest mysteries in all art: How did Dutch master Johannes Vermeer manage to paint so photo-realistically 150 years before the invention of photography? Spanning a decade, Jenison's adventure takes him to Holland, on a pilgrimage to the North coast of Yorkshire to meet artist David Hockney, and eventually even to Buckingham Palace. The epic research project Jenison embarks on is as extraordinary as what he discovers.
Tim Jenison, Penn Jillette, Martin Mull, Philip Steadman, David Hockney, Colin Blakemore, Leslie Jenison, Eric Armitage, Daniélle Lokin, Bob Groothuis, Ankie Bonnet, Ruth Steadman, Mike Hayes, Nicola Vigini, Graham Toms, Claire Jenison, Luren Jenison, Natalie Jenison, Teller
There is something about knowing how something was put together that destroys the magic in not knowing, the idea that something is unexplainable makes it just that little bit more interesting.
Some paintings like The Mona Lisa for example are impressive because you don’t know if the signature smirk was purely an accident or an intentional design of the artist. Tim’s Vermeer decides early on that it wants to know everything and while there is an element of disappointment to knowing how certain things came together, its the final product that stands out.
Tim’s Vermeer follows inventor Tim Jenison as he tries to discover the skills and techniques that brought about some of the best art as he searches to learn more about the approach Vermeer took to paint with such elegance and skill. The film follows his trip into the minutia of the artist from how he started to how it all ended while he searches for the answer to great art and while the quest might be a pointless one it will present him with some surprises and treats along the way.
The way the film manages to avoid ruining the sense of artistry by appreciating paintings and works of art for the little things, the unspoken emotions they force out of the viewer without you ever really realising until you take a closer look. Jenison’s journey never feels like a way of ruining an artists allure but embracing it wholeheartedly as he tries to honour and decipher him at the same time, knowing full well that completely understanding is never on the cards.
Written by magical duo Penn and Teller (directed by Teller), the film is all about magic and they depict the journey in such a playful and eccentric way that the movie comes off as a fantastical journey through the strange thoughts and artistry that brought about brilliance over the last few centuries. Jenison is a smart person to lead the film as he has a analytical yet goofy way of looking at facts. All in all the film cleverly dissects facts about Vermeer while never really affecting the way we look at his work and that in itself is an impressive feat.