The Vatican's altar images

Peter Greenaway hopes to create a light show in the Sistine Chapel

It takes chutzpah to embellish the greatest works of art the Western world has produced. As these pictures show, however, the British film-maker Peter Greenaway is not afraid to try.

Best known for The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover – which explores his regular themes of sex, violence and death – the director is now in discussions with the Vatican to project images on to one of the most significant art treasures in the world – Michelangelo's Last Judgement, a fresco on the altar wall of the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican.

Greenaway, whose latest film, Nightwatching, about the artist Rembrandt, is released in the UK today, told The Independent on Sunday that he was one of 250 artists invited to the Vatican in December to talk about developing the relationship between the church and artists.

His plan for the Sistine Chapel would be the culmination of his Nine Classic Paintings project. This has already seen him use light shows on Leonardo Da Vinci's Last Supper in Milan, as well as The Wedding at Cana, by Paolo Veronese, at the Venice Biennale. He intends to move on to Picasso's Guernica in Madrid and Jackson Pollock in New York before finishing with Michelangelo.

"I believe these paintings are well worth examining and we examine them through very contemporary forms of technology," said Greenaway, 67, who trained as a painter.

"We are projecting directly on to the paintings. To some this will seem an act of gimmickry or tomfoolery or iconoclasm. It's not a film or animation, but it does interface with how the painting was created.

"Just think if Michelangelo had had electricity; just imagine what the Sistine Chapel could have looked like if he was a film-maker dealing in holograms – how much more amazing that would be. So in a sense we're giving Michelangelo electricity."

Greenaway's Nightwatching, a detective-style drama based on Rembrandt's painting The Night Watch, stars Martin Freeman, famous for his role in The Office, and was finished two years ago. "My home country is very much behind with the release," he said. "I'm told of all sorts of reasons, one of which is the poor appreciation of European cinema in England.

"I understand the distribution system for the European art movie is now at an extremely low ebb. I'd be the first to agree that the death of cinema is about us. A great deal of cinema is being made, but very little of it is inventive, very little is radical."

"What fascinates me most is that Rembrandt paints artificial light. Rembrandt, Rubens, Caravaggio and Velazquez for the first time practised the depiction of artificial light.

"You could say they are the first film-makers, because cinema is the manipulation of artificial light. So it starts with these guys round about 1600. So as a painter and film-maker I'm going to be interested in these people."

Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
Arts and Entertainment

Will Poulter will play the shape-shifting monsterfilm
Arts and Entertainment

books
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
    General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

    On the margins

    From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
    Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

    'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

    Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
    Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

    Why patients must rely less on doctors

    Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
    Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

    Flesh in Venice

    Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
    Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

    Juventus vs Real Madrid

    Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
    Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

    Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

    Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power