Greenaway film revives a stolen Venetian treasure

Fri Sep 4, 2009 1:48pm EDT
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By Eliza Apperly

ROME (Reuters) - As the 66th International Film Festival kicks off in Venice, the world premiere of "The Marriage" by British director Peter Greenaway brings to life one of the city's most precious, pillaged paintings.

The 40-minute film, due to be screened next Friday, continues Greenaway's exploration of Paolo Veronese's "The Wedding at Cana," a vast banquet scene completed by the Italian Renaissance Master in 1563 and stolen by Napoleonic troops from Venice just over two centuries later.

Almost 70 square meters in area, The Wedding at Cana depicts the New Testament miracle story in which Jesus turns water into wine.

With a mixture of contemporary Venetian and antique detail, the painting presents 126 figures at a sumptuous meal described by Greenaway as "a real, and far from Biblical, party," according to Italian daily Il Corriere della Sera.

As part of this year's Biennale art festival, Greenaway exhibited a multimedia installation based on the painting in the refectory of the Benedictine Monastery of San Giorgio Maggiore, where it was first hung.

But in the new film, which mingles historical fact and imagination, Greenaway suggests the original subject of Veronese's painting was a scandalous -- and blasphemous -- rendition of Christ's own marriage.

The film, the third in a nine-part series by Greenaway exploring Old Masters, continues the director's interest in the relations between painting and cinema.

"The two languages have so much in common that there should be dialogue, exchange, between them much more frequently and much more directly," Greenaway said in a statement released by Change Performing Arts, which produced the film.   Continued...

<p>British film director Peter Greenaway gestures while addressing the audience during the 12th Expresion en Corto International Film Festival in Guanajuato, Mexico July 30, 2009. REUTERS/Mario Armas</p>