Sagrada: The Mystery of Creation (First Run Features, NR)

Sagrada 75It shies away from asking difficult questions and fails to provide the kind of context that would make the story even more interesting.

 

 

 

 

Sagrada 500

The Basilica i Temple Epiatori de la Sagrada Familia, better known as simply the Sagrada Familia, is a monumental Roman Catholic church in Barcelona, designed by the Catalan architect Antonio Gaudí. Although unfinished, it already has been granted the status of a UNESCO World Heritage site, and it’s one of those buildings that simply isn’t like anything else in the world.

I got my first glimpse of the Sagrada Familia thanks to television coverage of the Barcelona Olympics, when it was the subject of one of the cultural features NBC prepared to salt in and around the coverage of the running and jumping and such. Twenty-plus years later, seeing the Sagrada Familia in person is still high on my bucket list, and I’m not someone who usually goes in for modern architecture. It’s not just the building itself, but the whole story of its obsessed creator (Gaudí lived in the unfinished cathedral for years) and the halting yet persistent progression of the cathedral’s construction (begun in 1882, with an expected completion data of 2026) as the events of the modern world unfold around it.

Stefan Haupt’s documentary Sagrada: The Mystery of Creation gives you a great sense of the splendor and uniqueness of the Sagrada Familia and its creator, and for that reason alone it’s worth seeing. At its best, Sagrada encourages you to immerse yourself in the strangeness of Gaudí’s vision, with extensive footage accompanied by choral music celebrating both the grand scale of this project (even in its incomplete state it thoroughly overwhelms all surrounding buildings, the way medieval cathedrals soared above their towns) and its many carefully-planned details, from the carvings and screens and stained glass to the statue of a nude Jesus on the cross.

Haupt mixes stunning footage of the cathedral with interviews with people involved with the cathedral, including chief architect Jordi Bonet, sculptor Etsuro Sotoo, and many ordinary workers. Sotoo in particular communicates his spiritual connection the project and its materials, but the combined effect of these voices produces a feeling of great respect for the enterprise and those involved in it. Above all, they communicate the sense of being part of a project greater than themselves, and one that can hardly be expected to adhere to the deadline pressures we accept in other aspects of our lives.

Much as I admire Gaudí and his cathedral, I must admit to both rolling my eyes and checking my watch from now to then while watching Sagrada. The film’s pace is deliberate to a fault, and concentrates so completely on its subject (it has been termed a “biography of a building”) that it shies away from asking difficult questions and fails to provide the kind of context that would make the story of the Sagrada Familia even more interesting. Gaudí didn’t just emerge from nowhere, for instance, but was part of a lively creative scene in Barcelona. He also produced many other works, but those got more footage in the NBC Olympics coverage than they do in this film.

The extras on the DVD include six bonus interviews and a trailer gallery for other films distributed by First Run Features. | Sarah Boslaugh

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