Divine Art: Our Review of ‘Finding Altamira’

Posted in Blu-Ray/DVD, Movies, Theatrical by - September 23, 2016
Divine Art: Our Review of ‘Finding Altamira’

If you spend more than a few minutes talking to a movie lover (or a film critic for that matter) you may find that many of them treat the cinematic arts as something of a religion.  A connoisseur of film can find in the moving picture beauty that is transcendent and some might even say divine.  The same holds true for all fine arts, which from the early days of humans have, much like faith, inspired us, helped us explain and understand the world around us and explore the mysteries of life, our universe and beyond.

Finding Altamira tells the story of one of the earliest examples of art known to civilization.  Based on real events, it begins in 1878 as Spanish scholar and amateur pre-historian Marcelino Santuola, played by the always charismatic Antonio Banderas, and his 9 year old daughter Maria, stumble upon an amazing discovery – paintings of bison on the walls of a hidden cave near their home.  Santuola believes that “the bison of Altamira” date from the Paleolithic era, calling in to question previously held beliefs about the origin of mankind and causing a fervor amongst the religious and scientific communities alike.


The theme of religion versus science and the question of whether or not they can co-exist are central to the film.  It also explores the power of art, from cave paintings to moving images and how we use it to tell our human story, to express our deepest desires and fears, to inspire inquiry and imagination.  In many ways this movie is itself a powerful work of art.  Directed by Hugh Hudson, whose previous work includes best picture winner Chariots of Fire, it boasts stunning cinematography, helped in part by the magnificent vistas of northern Spain.  It also benefits from excellent performances from its very talented cast, including the wonderful Golshifteh Farahani and Pierre Niney to name just two.  Of particular note is an almost unrecognizable Rupert Everett as a menacing monseñor, who shows a depth and range I did not realize he had as an actor.  His performance made me wish I had seen more of him since the peak of his fame in the late 1990s.

The film is not without its faults however, the most glaring of which is that it is decidedly too short.  The themes explored in the film are ones that we still grapple with today.  Nearly one hundred and fifty years after the discovery of the cave paintings at Altamira, we are still debating questions of science and religion, art and faith.  These are deep and pensive topics which deserve to be expanded upon.  Sadly, the film feels rushed at times and left me wishing Hudson had given the story more room to breathe.finding-altamira-trailer

While Finding Altamira won me over with its fantastic cast, haunting beauty and thought provoking themes, it did leave me wanting more.  Still, the concept, implied in the film, that to create is divine resonates deeply with this movie lover and serves as a reminder of the importance and power of art and ultimately why film is my chosen religion.

Finding Altamira is also available on DVD from all major retailers as of this coming Tuesday Sept. 27th.


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