SAGRADA: THE MYSTERY OF CREATION (Stefan Haupt, 2012)
Film Society of Lincoln Center, Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center
Francesca Beale Theater
144 West 65th St. between Eighth Ave. & Broadway
December 19 – January 1
Barcelona’s La Sagrada Familia is perhaps the most spectacular long-running architectural work-in-progress in the world, and arguably the most beautiful and inspiring. Construction began on the cathedral, which sits in the center of the cosmopolitan city, in March 1882, under diocesan architect Francisco del Paula del Villar, but a young man named Antoni Gaudí took over at the end of 1883 and spent the next forty-three years designing and building the expiatory church, incorporating a unique mix of styles as well as a whole new architectural philosophy. Swiss filmmaker Stefan Haupt (Elisabeth Kübler-Ross: Facing Death, The Circle) takes viewers behind the scenes of this ongoing project in the dry but elegant documentary Sagrada: The Mystery of Creation. Haupt delves into the history of the grand building and looks into its future as he speaks with chief architect Jordi Bonet, sculptors Etsuro Sotoo and Josep Subirachs, stained-glass artist Joan Vila-Grau, priest Lluís Bonet, religious studies professor Raimon Panikkar, and others about the house of worship, most of them singing the praises of the proud Catalan Gaudí, who also built such dazzling structures in his home region as Casa Batlló, Park Güell, and La Pedrera. “We owe it to him to finish this temple and show the world his genius,” foreman Jaume Torreguitart says. The film features extended sections in which cinematographer Patrick Lindenmaier lovingly shoots the inside and outside of the basilica, lingering over the intricate beauty of the myriad details, from the Nativity and Passion Facades to the spires, nave, apse, transept vaults, and Gaudí’s own crypt. La Sagrada occasionally feels like a clever way to raise money to continue work on the project, as it was made with the full support of the Sagrada Família Foundation, which needs funds to finally finish the ornate structure, and the narration (spoken by Hanspeter Müller-Drossaart) lacks the poetry of the visuals. But even as beautiful as the visuals are, it’s still difficult to capture, in words and pictures, the captivating essence of La Sagrada Familia, which overwhelmed me when I visited it a few years ago. The Film Society of Lincoln Center is screening Sagrada: The Mystery of Creation from December 19 to January 1; as a bonus, they are also showing Hiroshi Teshigahara’s 1984 documentary, Antoni Gaudí, December 19-25.