Inside the Mind of Leonardo is being touted as “a visually dazzling two-part special that offers the viewer unparalleled exclusive access to da Vinci’s revolutionary ideas and inventions.” In actuality, it’s a confused, ambitious, but ultimately unsatisfying look at a man that has been better portrayed elsewhere.
Peter Capaldi stars as da Vinci in this strange mixture of biopic and documentary. He’s a talented actor, that is without doubt, but the choice to leave him in what is clearly not period-appropriate wear and his native Scottish accent is distracting, and leaves doubt as to why he was cast in the first place. Capaldi mutters and soliloquizes in da Vinci’s own words—the only words spoken, in fact, throughout the entire film. The rest of the information (sorely needed and sorely lacking) is conveyed through the superimposition of antiqued text over images of today’s Italy.
What was the purpose behind this? Does Julian Jones, the director, fancy himself an innovator on da Vinci’s level? Regardless of the intent, it comes off as a stylistically unnecessary exercise that ends in failure. The film does have its merits. The choice to film in 3D is a good one, and the visuals that are created through a combination of CGI and da Vinci’s own sketches are marvelous to watch—they are alive and vivid, and it creates an extraordinary fantasy. However these visuals only entertain for a few minutes before the film goes back to its puzzling premise. It’s the kind of film you put on in the background, to glance at every few minutes, but not enough to stand on its own.
At one point, Capaldi recites, “Nothing is superfluous in nature.” The same thing cannot be said about Inside the Mind of Leonardo. Almost all you see is superfluous. For a film that promises an exclusive and unseen look at da Vinci’s life, pure fiction would have been preferable, such as glimpses of his personal life that this film only hints at—such as the charges of sodomy he faced. Instead, this film educates no more than Wikipedia does, and somehow, it is the latter that’s more interesting.
Submarine Deluxe will release the film in New York on October 17, 2014 with a nationwide theatrical roll out to follow
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