Altamira online movie review - Beautifully Photographed Lesson in Art History
Pablo Picasso wrote that "after Altamira, all is decadence - we have invented nothing.
" This fascinating and aesthetically splendid film tells the story of the discovery of one of the earliest works of art of mankind, the famous Paleolithic cave paintings of animals, the so-called Cave of Altamira near the town of Santillana del Mar and west of Santander in Cantabria, Spain.
Antonio Banderas is outstanding as the impassioned "amateur" scientist responsible for alerting the world to the transcendent discovery of the caves, initially found by a dog and a shepherd who stumbled across the opening. Banderas plays the role of Marcelino Sanz de Sautuola y de la Pedrueca, who, along with his eight-year-old daughter, Maria, first recognized the significance of the mysterious wall paintings. The film starts in 1878 in Cantabria and ends in 1902, the date when the wall paintings were formally acknowledged as authentic.
The film tells the story of the struggle and humiliation of Sautuola, who faced hostility from both the church and the recidivist scientists, who refused to believe that the magnificent paintings could have been executed by artists around the year 10,000 B.C.E.
It turns out that paintings may have belonged to the Aurignacian culture, 35,600 years ago. Sautuola carefully analyzed the evidence and came to realize the significance of the find. The film effectively develops the family drama, focusing on the resistance of Sautuola's wife, Conchita, who finally comes around to believing in the theory of her husband. Conchita also takes a strong stand against the local Monsignor, who nearly invokes the Spanish Inquisition in his attempt to consign Sautuola to hell for his scientific views.
"Altamira" was directed by Hugh Hudson, the filmmaker who produced one of the most beautifully shot films of the previous century, "Chariots of Fire." "Altamira" has the same polished look with breathtaking scenes of the countryside in Northern Spain.
This film could have been a dry "history channel" dramatization. Instead, it is a superbly crafted and aesthetically brilliant feature film, one that is not to be missed for lovers of art and culture.