Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
Sagrada: the Mystery of Creation, Still in Progress
could very well have been St. Joseph himself who miraculously constructed the Loretto
Chapel’s circular staircase in Santa Fe, but strictly speaking, he was a
carpenter. That leaves Antoni Gaudí in pretty exclusive company as a beautified
architect. One hundred thirty years after it first broke ground, his life
defining project continues to be erected in Barcelona. Stefan Haupt follows the
progress and meditates on the significance of the already imposing cathedral in
Sagrada: the Mystery of Creation (trailer here), which opens this Friday
in New York.
commissioned in 1882, the Order of St. Joseph hired Gaudí to take control of
the unwieldy project a year later. Known for his devout Catholicism and wholly
distinctive style, Gaudí was an inspired but slightly risky choice. Throughout his
final years, he lived and breathed the Sagrada Familia, even though he knew he
would never live to see its completion. He hoped to see the Nativity façade finished,
but tragically succumbed to injuries sustained from a tram accident. For a
while, his assistant Domènech Sugranyes carried on in his stead, until the
macro events of the Twentieth Century temporarily halted the project.
does a nice job chronicling the various phases of construction, but his cast of
talking head experts are suspiciously concise when discussing the effects of
the Spanish Civil War. Evidently, when the Loyalists were burning churches,
they also destroyed all of Gaudí’s plans and scale models that they could find,
leaving the Sugranyes and his fellow architects in absolute disarray, but they
were good leftists, so let’s not discuss it.
Haupt and the current architectural team clearly understand the Ken
Follett-like sweep of the project. For many, it represents not just faith in
God and his church, but a faith that succeeding generations would finish the
work they started. Obviously, the final Sagrada Familia will be necessarily
different from what Gaudí originally conceived, which is a burden and an opportunity
for several contemporary artists working on its decorative elements. Easily the
most eloquent is Japanese sculptor Etsuro Sotoo, who converted to Catholicism
while working on the Sagrada Familia. In fact, there are a number of Japanese
connections to the cathedral, such as Hiroshi Teshigahara, who previously
documented an earlier period of construction in his film Antonio Gaudí (also opening this Friday).
times, Haupt asks (or implies) some spot on questions, like what do
contemporary Christians build if we no longer erect cathedrals? Of course, his
trump card is the Sagrada Familia itself. It is a stunning sight, perhaps even
more so when juxtaposed against the modern secular cranes supporting its raise
into the heavens. It would be hard to make it look prosaic, but Haupt and cinematographer
Patrick Lindenmaier find particularly cinematic angles for some truly dramatic
On the other hand, Haupt forces an artificially
surreal note into the film when he stages brief scenes of dancer Anna Huber
posing amid the half-constructed interiors. Regardless, it still serves as a
thoughtful overview, primer, and guided tour of what has already become
Barcelona’s most popular tourist attraction. Sometimes religion and architecture
can actually draw a crowd. Recommended for Gaudí admirers, Sagrada: the Mystery of Creation opens this Friday (12/19) in New
York, at the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center.
Labels: Antoni Gaudi, Documentary