Sagrada: The Mystery of Creation / Sagrada – el misteri de la creació (2012)

July 1, 2013 | By

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Film: Very Good / DVD Transfer:  n/a / DVD Extras: n/a

Label: n/a/ Region: n/a / Released: n/a

Genre: Documentary / Architecture / Antoni Gaudi / Sagrada Familia

Synopsis: Detailed snapshot of Antoni Gaudi’s greatest (and biggest) creation – the Sagrada Familia cathedral – as it’s surpassed the halway point of its 125+ years of construction.

Special Features: n/a




When the cathedral’s original architect was dumped by his patrons after a year’s work, and legendary Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi was brought in to continue the project in 1883, little did anyone know the building would become both an obsession and symbol of stubbornness among Gaudi, his followers who continued its construction, and the family who inaugurated what will become the biggest cathedral on Earth once its central spire – all 170 meters – is completed.

Now in its 125th year of construction – Gaudi devoted the last years of his life exclusively to the Barcelona edifice – the Sagrada Familia as it’s called has weathered weak / non-existent finances (Gaudi at one point is reported to have gone door-to-door asking for construction funds), the Spanish Civil War (rebels not only set fire to the building’s interior, but destroyed every record of its construction, smashing the elaborate plaster models Gaudi used to realize his dream project), the natural elements (construction didn’t resume until a year after Franco’s death in 1977), and ongoing opposition from critics who believe the building is a bit of a monster.

There’s a sense opponents of its completion would’ve preferred it was ‘demolished by neglect’ – something perhaps Franco desired, after banning the use of religious buildings, and letting the structure just sit there near the edge of the city – but Gaudi made two brilliant moves: rather than building the cathedral from the ground up, he wanted a full façade done, so future architects could follow his plan with a stark, functional reference point; and its outer carvings were supposed to be crafted by local contemporary artisans – meaning the building would evolve and remain relevant during its erection and beyond.

A major irony was the hiring of brilliant abstract sculptor Joseph Subirachs, one of several architects and sculptors who signed a petition at one point requesting any attempts to complete the cathedral be stopped. Subirachs’ finished work creates a link between classical and contemporary art, and while Gaudi purists object to the harsh lines of his carvings, they are stunning creations which blend beautifully with Gaudi’s outer structure.

The building’s current hurdles including the construction of a high-speed train 30 feet beneath the building’s foundations, and the likelihood it’ll take another 30 years to complete the Sagrada, but it has surpassed the midpoint, and tourism has in fact solved the bulk of the building’s construction financing, so perhaps after 150 years, the job will finally be done.

Stefan Haupt’s documentary covers three phases of its recent history: its consecration by Pope Benedict XVI in 2010, and the brief periods before & after where the inner stone cladding was partially complete, and the tunneling of the train system was still being fought in the courts. During these periods, Haupt visited the building and photographed parts of its inner and outer sections, and gathered interviews from supporters, workers, supervisors, detractors, sculptors Subirachs and Etsuro Sotoo, and stained glass artisan Joan Vila-Grau who created the brilliant windows.

Much of the project’s construction is examined in sometimes dry details, and Bach’s Mass in B Minor reappears at points, conducted (apparently) inside the cathedral by Jordi Savall. (One hopes its acoustics won’t be buggered once the trains start rolling beneath.) Haupt also uses an occasional (and odd) device of a waif who sits or poses silent inside the building, or sometimes wanders its winding stairways.

For architects, fans of Gaudi, and those intrigued by a modern spiritual quest shared by Catholic, multi-faith, and agnostic workers and artisans, Haupt’s film is a highly informative document that’s sure to be upgraded by further filmic visitations as the Sagrada Familia reaches its endpoint. Non-fans may find the film more ponderous, over-examining the minutia of its history and the main figures – architects, sculptors, and foremen – who recall and reflect on their own odyssey with Gaudi’s grotesque structure.

Another weakness is a lack of further wide shots and finer visual details from within the building; Haupt’s camera does float in and around the structure, but lacking are perhaps more images that reveal its scale not from a distance or from a waiting tourist’s vantage, but the nearby streets and parks to convey the massive bulk of a structure with 18 spires that will permanently tower above Barcelona.

More recent interviews with some of film’s subjects can be seen in “God’s Architect,” an excellent episode of 60 Minutes which aired in June 9, 2013.



© 2013 Mark R. Hasan


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