The Vatican Museums 3D (3 stars)

The Vatican Museums 3D

Governorate of Vatican City

Great art becomes an immersive cinematic experience in a novel documentary

Museum movies are so hot right now and The Vatican Museums 3D is one of the big daddies. Suitable for nearly all viewers, the only people who will find it offensive will be dyed-in-the-wool types who are staunchly anti-technology. Certainly, we’d all like to touch, sniff and lick great art and this gives us the opportunity to get up close and personal without getting arrested.

Hence there's plenty of value to director Marco Pianigiani's film, which, unlike say The Museum, weighs in at a wise 70 minutes. But rather than length, it is the depth that really makes this film work. Avoiding sensory overload is difficult when dealing with over 2000 years of art, so the focus is on detail with some artsy bits for relief: a handsome man blows a handful of marble dust into the air, with the slow-mo symbolising the carving of stone.

Outside of a few repeated shots, we are expertly escorted throughout by the museums' director Antonio Paolucci. Ultra HD 4K/3D cameras and the work of some 40 film professionals capture unparalleled visuals and give us big screen access to the surface of Caravaggios, the Laocoön Group and the Belvedere Torso – a large statue fragment so magnificent that Michelangelo would not complete it, even when requested to do so by Pope Julius II. Michelangelo’s Pietà, Giotto, da Vinci, Van Gogh, Chagall and Dalí are lovingly touched upon but it is the Sistine Chapel that is the crown.

The Vatican Museums 3D is a broadly balanced, wisely paced feature of the Vatican’s greatest hits. It's a film to bring out the art historian in us all, and although it's hard to replicate the atmosphere of the place – and, for many, its spiritual dimension – this offers a considerably better view than going along in person.

Selected release from Tue 18 Nov.

Vatican Museums 3D in Australian cinemas November 8, 2014

The Vatican Museums

  • 3 stars
  • 2014
  • Italy
  • 1h 10min
  • Directed by: Antonio Paolucci
  • UK release: 18 November 2014

The latest museum movie is a close-up, 3D look at the 2000 years' of art in the Vatican museums. Museum director Antonio Paolucci is an expert guide to a broadly balanced, wisely paced feature of the Vatican's greatest hits, with such a focus on detail that it offers a considerably better view than going along in person.