Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan


(UK, 1936)

I don’t know much about Rembrandt, the man, but I suspect that about 90% of this is bullshit, as it was in most biopics of this era … and often is to this day, for that matter. I do know that when The Night Watch was unveiled, the good stuffed shirt burghers of Amsterdam didn’t laugh. (How would they dare, in those ridiculous collars?) I’ve seen it, in the Rijksmuseum—or what’s left of it; in 1715 they cut bits out of all four sides so it would fit a new space, like freakin’ wallpaper!—and it’s magnificent. And I know that Rembrandt was in financial straits most of his life, because he just couldn’t stop spending more than he had. Other than that, I don’t know about his romances as portrayed here. And I don’t know if he was the sort to go to the wall for his artistic vision, refusing to take commissions from nobles just so he’d paint a flattering portrait of them. But none of that matters. As is so often the case, what’s on display here is Charles Laughton’s performance, and it is also magnificent. He ages, the last scene is of him on the day of his death, and he’s completely convincing as a slightly doddering old man who can still match wits with those younger than he. I liked this one.