It may not be about social justice, some political scandal, an uplifting biography, an environmental crisis or some other important issue. Despite that and the fact that The Academy has overlooked it this year, Tim’s Vermeer is probably my favorite documentary of 2013.
Teller of the entertainment duo, directs and his partner, Penn, produces and narrates. Tim’s Vermeer is a story about Tim Jenison, friend of the two and eccentric genius. Something of a real-life (though less glamorous) Tony Stark, Jenison is a wealthy computer developer and mechanical tinkerer. Cultivating a new found fascination of the paintings of Dutch master Johannes Vermeer, Jenison discovers that there is a bit of mystery surrounding his techniques. Producing photo-realistic paintings in a time before photography was invented, and apparently using no pencil sketches in his work, Vermeer imbued a certain glow about his work that has intrigued and baffled art enthusiasts.
There are some who are convinced that what Vermeer painted was impossible for the human eye to see and recreate and that he must have used some sort of lenses – perhaps a camera obscura – to assist in some way. Intrigued by this notion, Jenison, who had absolutely no art training or painting experience set about a massive experiment to see if he could not only reinvent the technique Vermeer was supposed to have used, but use it himself to recreate a Vermeer painting himself.
The film covers this (exceedingly) lengthy, intense, (and surely expensive) journey as Jenison not only discovers what he thinks was Vermeer’s secret, but painstakingly recreates the setting of one of the master’s paintings in order to attempt to paint it himself.
This is a story of human ingenuity, perseverance, and clever invention. It’s surprising how entertaining and even gripping this story of one man just trying to paint a picture turns out to be. It’s a bit of a mystery and adventure, rolled up into one long Mythbusters episode about painting. Along the way, the film opens dialogue about the divide between art and technology – is using new inventions, such as lenses or digital graphics, cheating, or part of advancing art to new heights?
Tim’s Vermeer is a must see for anyone who appreciates the behind the scenes or technical aspects of creating great art. It’s inspiring, intriguing, and at only 80 minutes doesn’t allow itself to drag or fall into the dregs of self interest. If you get the chance, I would highly recommend giving it a watch.
Mrs. Hamster did not screen this film.
My rating: Five out of five hats
Tim’s Vermeer paints its way into 12 theaters, February 14