The Life Of Leonardo Da Vinci

The Life Of Leonardo Da Vinci (1972)
Extras: Various Featurettes

Leonardo Da Vinci was undoubtedly one of the brightest minds in history and interestingly enough, not very much is really known about the man. Too much personal information of his has been lost. On two discs, Questar has now released a documentary about Da Vinci which tries to unearth some of the myths and legends surrounding this mastermind, while also trying to show just how remarkable Da Vinci’s achievements were.

The documentary presents itself as an entertaining mix of movie and documentary. The entire life of Da Vinci is reconstructed using actors, period settings and costumes, bringing the world of the Medici to glorious and colorful life. It also helps to give Leonardo a face, instead of treating him as something abstract. From his earliest childhood all the way to his death at the age of 75, we are witness to his life, his tribulations and his achievements. All the while the film is narrated and occasional the action is interrupted by a documentarian, explaining the historical background of the current sequence. All in all, "The Life Of Leonardo Da Vinci" is a magically entertaining, informative and oftentimes moving documentary about one of the most brilliant minds that has ever lived on this Earth.

The DVD features a <$PS,fullscreen> presentation of the film that is generally clean. However, the transfer is noticeably soft and somewhat lacks definition, giving the presentation a silky feel throughout. Colors are very strong, though never over-saturated, rendering an image that is rich in hues. Blacks are good with well-defined shadows that never break up. The compression has been handled adequately and no distracting artifacts are evident.

The entire documentary has been dubbed from its Italian original, and though the dub isn’t all that bad, it is evident that it is a bit out of sync at times. Inflections in the voices don’t appear as natural as the images try to bring across, and as a result the audio always feels stuck on top of the presentation. The very narrow frequency response of this 1972 production also adds an unnatural feel to the presentation, as the narration and dialogues are unnaturally harsh-sounding. The good news is that after a little while you won’t even notice as the material pulls you under its spell.

Apart from this marvelous documentary, the DVD release also contains a few exciting extras, all located on the second disc.

"The Rise Of Renaissance Italy" is a featurette about the cultural impact that Italy has had on the world during the Renaissance. It covers many of the artists and historic figures that shaped the country and made it what it has become.

Leonardo’s Masterpieces" is a featurette that takes a look at select ones of Da Vinci’s greatest pieces of art. Complete with narration that explains the importance of each piece, its background as well as its place in art history, makes this featurette a true gem for everyone who ever wanted to learn a bit more about Da Vinci’s work.

"Da Vinci’s Inventions" does the same for some of his most outstanding inventions. As you may know, Leonardo Da Vinci was skilled with a versatility that is unparalleled in history. There is nothing Da Vinci couldn’t do. He was a painter, a sculptor, a writer, a mechanic, an inventor, a scientist, a philosopher and so much more. In this featurette we get but a glimpse of his genius when it came to practical applications and as you will see, many of the principles of his work are still in use today, some 500 years later. In fact, Da Vinci is accredited with the invention of countless devices and machines that we use today as everyday commodities.

"The Maestro Vs. Michelangelo" is a 7-minute featurette about the relationship of Da Vinci and Michelangelo. The two were bitter enemies during their lives, but are today regarded the two greatest painters of their time. Some of the milestones and the historic background of the conflict between the two is outlined here, once again in the very entertaining and informative way, as the rest of the package.

"Leonardo and Michelangelo: A Timeline" is a quick rundown of the milestone achievements of both, giving viewers a good impression about the life-spanning work of these impressive personalities.

Since I was a little boy I have been mesmerized by Leonardo Da Vinci’s work. The quality, timelessness and the quantity of his achievements seem to make him superhuman in a way. However, after watching this documentary, it is easy to realize that even Da Vinci was only human. He had his share of problems and torment, ad personal burden to carry, yet at the same time he was restlessly at work, exploring the nature of things and applying everything he has learned to his next projects. This sort of accumulative learning across many areas made it possible for him to envision things that others could not grasp at the time. Leonardo Da Vinci was a God among men, and with this great documentary we are able to bear witness to his genius from beginning to end. There can be no doubt that this DVD is a must-see for everyone vaguely interested in Da Vinci, or the development of arts and science during the Renaissance. This DVD comes with my highest recommendations!