Ecstasy and Agony

Ecstasy and Agony ( The Agony and the Ecstasy ) is ahistorical American film directed by Carol Reed , released in 1965 .
It stars Charlton Heston as Michelangelo and Rex Harrison as Pope Julius II .


The film tells the story of the sometimes tense relationship between Michelangelo and Julius II at the time when the artist painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel . On this point, it differs from Irving Stone ‘s novel, which tells the story of the great painter’ s life.

In 1508 , Pope Julius II chose Michelangelo to decorate the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, which has just been inaugurated. He begins by refusing, giving as reason that he is a sculptor and not a painter. He fled to Florence but, finally, we managed to convince him to get down to work and he left for Rome . After a while, he does not like what he does, destroys all his work and leaves. The pope manages to convince him to return by giving him carte blanche for his work.

Michelangelo decides to illustrate different scenes of the Bible . His painstaking work spans months and years, and the pope is growing impatient. The arguments between the two men become more and more difficult; even the architect Bramante comes to criticize the work of the artist.

At the same time, the painter Raphael is painting The School of Athens . Soon, Michelangelo falls ill. Furious, the pontiff pretends to hire Raphael to finish the job. Encouraged by the Countess de Medici , Michelangelo returns to complete his work. Then the war breaks out. Rome is threatened by the enemy army. Julius II falls ill and is unable to take the lead of his troops. Michelangelo then threatens not to finish his work if the pope does not get up.

In 1512 , the ceiling is finally finished, Michelangelo and Julius II contemplate the work.

Technical sheet

  • Title: Ecstasy and Agony
  • Original title: The Agony and the Ecstasy
  • Director: Carol Reed , assisted by Robert D. Webb
  • Scenario: Philip Dunne , based on Irving Stone’s novel , The Agony and the Ecstasy
  • Photography: Leon Shamroy
  • Sound: Carlton W. Faulkner
  • Special Effects: LB Abbott
  • Music: Alex North and Jerry Goldsmith (prologue)
  • Costumes: Vittorio Nino Novarese
  • Editing: Samuel E. Beetley
  • Production: Carol Reed , for International Classics and Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation
  • Budget: $ 10 million (estimated)
  • Country of origin: United States
  • Format: Todd-AO – Color (Deluxe) Technicolor – 2.20: 1 Dolby Stereo 6 tracks – 70 mm
  • Language: English , Latin
  • Year of production: 1965
  • Genre: drama , historical
  • Duration: 138 minutes (2:18)
  • Release date :
    •   West Germany
    •   United States
    •   UK


  • Charlton Heston ( VF : Jean-Claude Michel ) : Michelangelo
  • Rex Harrison ( VF : Roger Treville ) : Julius II
  • Diane Cilento ( VF : Janine Freson ) : Contessina of Medici
  • Harry Andrews ( VF : Marcel Bozzuffi ) : Bramante
  • Alberto Lupo : Duke of Urbino
  • Adolfo Celi : John of Medici
  • John Stacy : Sangallo
  • Tomas Milián : Raphael
  • Fausto Tozzi ( VF : Henri Djanik ) : the foreman
  • Venantino Venantini : Grassi’s Paris
  • Furio Meniconi ( VF : Claude Bertrand ) : the innkeeper
  • Maxine Audley ( VF : Lita Recio ) : a woman
  • Emma Baron



David di Donatello of the best foreign production in 1966


1965 Oscars :

  • better color photography
  • best artistic direction in color
  • best suit in color
  • best sound
  • best original music.

Around the film

  • Rex Harrison has always refused to grow beard like Julius II had one in real life. On the other hand, Charlton Heston agreed to put a steel rod in his nose to accentuate his resemblance to Michelangelo.
  • The marble quarry where Michelangelo takes refuge in the film is that of Carrara in Tuscany . This is the same career that provided the true Michelangelo for his sculptures.
  • The ceiling of the Sistine Chapel that we see in the film was created on a set of Studios Cinecittà in Rome .
  • There is a serious anachronism in the film. On the east wall of the Sistine Chapel, you can see two frescoes painted in 1571 by Arrigo Paladeno and Matteo da Lecce . As the action takes place between 1508 and 1512, they should obviously not be visible.

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