Film reviews by Daniel Davis are an internship project in partnership with Lyndon State College. Opinions expressed are those of the reviewer and not of Catamount Arts.
Tim’s Vermeer is a documentary that tells the story of inventor Tim Jenison who seeks to discover the painting techniques that were used by Dutch master, Johannes Vermeer, so that he can try and make his own Vermeer-style painting. The film shows that not only was Vermeer a master at his craft, but he was also somewhat of a flawed master.
Directed by Teller and narrated by Penn Jillette, famous illusionists best known as Penn and Teller, Tim’s Vermeer has plenty of humor and shows one man’s obsession with an age-old artist. The film goes into Tim Jenison’s career and life, showing us the various things that he was involved in and helped to create, and then shows us the process of how he started his Vermeer project: first going to Holland in order to visit Vermeer’s hometown, and then going to the U.K. to talk with Philip Steadman, author of Vermeer’s Camera: Uncovering the Truth Behind the Masterpieces.
Throughout the film, we are shown Vermeer’s art and get a better idea of why his art has been so influential. Vermeer’s unique “realistic” style was popular because of its mysterious origins. We have no real idea how Vermeer was able to accomplish his style. The film speculates, though does not prove, that Vermeer potentially had a machine that he used in order to help him with his art. What the film does reveal to us though is that Vermeer’s style was not as perfect as it seemed, and that minor flaws prevent people from copying it.
Teller’s direction is interesting. One scene features a montage with Tim opening cans of paints, building the room, and so forth. The music is interesting, and at times, can be both very “comical” and also very melodramatic. The best use of the music is when it feels like a great discovery has been made, particularly at the end. One flaw I found was in Penn’s narration, which at times, tended to explain things a little more than perhaps necessary. Personally, however, I couldn’t have seen Tim’s Vermeer at a more appropriate time as I’m currently taking a “Survey of Western Art” course this semester, and learning about Vermeer for the first time. So, this documentary was very relevant for me, and in many ways, an eye opener.
On the surface, Tim’s Vermeer is not a concept that would not have necessarily interested me, but what Penn and Teller have done, is not to do a tribute to Vermeer’s art, but rather to show one man’s obsession with Vermeer’s style of art, and I highly recommend seeing this film.