Sagrada: The Mystery of Creation (2012)
Written, produced and directed by Stefan Haupt
Starring Jordi Bonet i Armengol, Etsuro Sotoo, Jaume Torreguitart, Joan Rigol, Josep Maria Subirachs i Sitjar, Mark Burry, Joan Vila-Grau, Raimon Panikkar, Lluís Bonet, Jordi Savall, Luard Bonet, Josep Tallada, Joan Bassegoda, David Mackay, Mariona Bonet, Anna Huber
“Other architects compel admiration; Gaudí demands love as well.”
–Anthony Burgess, The Gaudiness of Gaudí
Its towering, bedight immanity reflects the hugeness of its architect’s heart and faith, enormously and unmistakably indelible upon its metropolitan skyline. Antoni Gaudí’s minor basilica is the most idiomatic of churches, a synthesis of Art Nouveau and neo-Gothic, conciliation of the modern and eternal, byword of Barcelona, endeavor to objectify empyrean majesty on terra firma and monument to Catalan creativity, Catholic devotion and Christ’s deathless divinity. Of his fanciful fourteen constructions in the Catalonian capital, its unequaled ambition alone beggars the baroque in curvilineal persistence and wanton intricacy. Produced during the 125th (nonconsecutive) year of its construction, Haupt’s cinematic celebration of this incomplete, incomparable architectural and religious phenomenon renders its history in contemporary context with graceful slow pans, overhead and stabile shots before, above and interior interposed by a wealth of revealing interviews. Chief architect Bonet declares deference to Gaudí’s intent, expounds on his conceptual adaptation of natural forms, reports numerous challenges surmounted and expected to realize his herculean enterprise, and guides viewers through its uniquely hyperboloidal nave; his brother Lluís, a priest who conducts Mass in the basilica’s crypt, continues this tour to designate columns denoting and dedicated to the Apostles and Evangelists; Rigol, chairman of the Sagrada Familia’s foundation, narrates its conception as a small expiatory temple instituted by bookseller Josep Maria Bocabella; theologian Panikkar relates Gaudí’s humble origins and character, and avows that his greatest work is the ultimate symbol of the consubstantial Trinity; exhibited conducting La Capella de Catalunya’s superb rendition of Bach’s Mass in B minor, Savall likens sacred structure and composition to illustrate interpretive evolutions independent of their respective creators. Disposed at its furthest flanks, the Sagrada Familia’s twain completed (of three projected) frontispieces are as antipodal thematically and stylistically as their public receptions: Christ’s birth is signified by the Nativity facade facing a rising sun to its northeast, and his death by the Passion facade before each southwestern setting sun. That former frontal’s grand exuberance was completed in 2000 after the creation and installation of its polychrome doors and symbolic statuary of Joseph, Mary and neonatal Jesus, musicians, singers, angels, flora and fauna intricately hewn over the course of fifteen years by sculptor Sotoo, a gifted and intimate epigone as dedicated to Gaudí’s vision as to their shared Catholicism. His controversial obverse is the agnostic Subirachs, once a cosignatory to an infamous open letter published in La Vanguardia on 1965.9.1 that opposed the church’s finalization, which he’s since retracted. Individuated by a harshly orthogonal angularity fashionable in the late 20th century, his elegiac images of sublunary sin, lamenting figures, and the Savior’s trials and Crucifixion is fearsome, austere and truly original, fulfilling Gaudí’s intentions for a Passion portraying sacrificial severity with stark simplicity, and widely reprobated as a failure for its inconsonant deviation from Gaudí’s idiom. Sotoo’s veneration for Gaudí is patently dissimilar to the dispassionate respect that Subirachs voices in defense of his individuality. One Joan Vila-Grau, designer of the particolored, stained-glass panes so vivid within the basilica, proclaims a similar insistence, though his manner meshes better; these patterns are exactly cut and assembled for installation by Luard Bonet. Elsewhere, the project’s executive architect and researcher Mark Burry presses software intended for aeronautical design into service to dimension parametric, digital models so to flexibly draft present and future developments, and emphasizes the need for collaborative, interdepartmental communication. Surely the least among these interviewees is one David Mackay, architect, urban planner and another cosigner of the aforementioned open letter, who without explication derogates the basilica’s postwar construction as inauthentic and jejune; exuding a rare hypocrisy, he stupidly submits that this house of worship’s purpose should be “more social” and “less religious” to fulfill contemporary, interfaith imperatives of “our culture” — thickly oblivious to the discrete incompatibility of Catalonian and Spanish, much less British cultures. Another nadir from degenerate, atheist Albion, this peculiarly fatuous, Anglo-globalist perspective is as notable for nescience as inanity, and typical of the British refusal to fathom Catalonia since Orwell’s denouncement of this masterwork. Howbeit, this ecclesiastical edifice has weathered worse, such as anarchists who conflagrated most of Gaudí’s plans and models in the anti-clerical devastation of Spain’s Civil War. Modeler Josep Tallada diligently inventories thousands of their surviving portions and fragments identified and otherwise, and Sotoo has since reconstructed numerous smashed statues. To finally consecrate this chef-d’oeuvre, Pope Benedict XVI visited Barcelona to the acclamation of godly throngs and Bonet’s reverent greeting, the event to which Haupt’s documentary culminates. Perhaps a sequel or appendix may be shot to document the basilica’s completion sometime in the upcoming score, when the third and final Glory facade comprising a gigantic conical array imaging Christ’s supernal triumph and the paths to heaven and hell will be erected, as will the remaining ten steeples to a total of eighteen typing the dozen Apostles, Evangelical quartet (to feature gargoyles crafted by Sotoo), Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ collinear above the crypt at the nave’s and transept’s intersection as the central tallest, whereupon the church’s height of 170 meters will render it in stature unmatched…yet a meter shorter than nearby Montjuïc hill in obeisance to Jehovah’s physitheistic peak. Until then, visitors and viewers alike are whelmed to witness its unfinished, richly representative grandeur. From each facade’s threefold porticos importing Christian virtues to the pinnacles of their apostolic steeples, they possess a singularly, almost otherworldly power substantiated in stone. The Nativity’s porticos are demarcated by massive columns bearing helical relief on testudine footstalls, and its Tree of Life rises mightily from its central portico of Charity. Polarily, slant sequoian columns support the Passion, wherein a morbidly osteal colonnade upholds its pyramidal pediment topped with a crown of thorns countering the Tree of Life. A columnar forest, the nonobjectively isobilateral nave’s coffers admit sunlight as that dappled though boughs, and its multiplex contours jut pointed or swell convex, leading to the apse’s soaring hyperboloidal vault of 75 meters, under which the chancel is lambently illumined. Vertices of lesser spires sprout Sotoo’s sacramental sheaves of wheat and clusters of grapes. Ellipses and lobations and crochets and curlicues, blooming bosses, liturgical motifs, canonical iconography as phantasmagoria in constant curvature everywhere teem myriad. From Montserrat’s prolate hills and botany stylized, it is the immaculate and the ethereal reified.
Recommended for a double feature paired with Teshigahara’s Antonio Gaudí.