Life of Leonardo da Vinci, The (DVD Review)28 Jul, 2011 By: John Latchem
$29.99 two-DVD set
Leonardo da Vinci may have been the smartest person who ever lived. He not only was an accomplished artist, but also a remarkable inventor and scientist, conceptualizing gadgets such as flying machines that were centuries ahead of his time.
That legacy was the subject of the 1971 Italian miniseries The Life of Leonardo da Vinci, which is presented here in all its glory. Though some details of Leonardo’s life (1452-1519) are spotty at best, the program does a good job filling in the gaps and giving us a good sense of Leonardo the man, sorting out what may be true and what may not be. It even begins with the myth that Leonardo died in the arms of the king of France, a popular legend that sprang up within a few years after his death.
The ironic subtext to Leonardo’s life is that he may have considered himself a failure because he expected to accomplish so much more.
The program is divided into five hour-long episodes and has been dubbed into English. As presented, it’s more of a docudrama with a narrator describing Leonardo’s life as it is being re-created on screen. The constant narration takes a little getting used to but makes everything seem that much more educational, ideally suited to take up a week’s worth of lessons in high school history classes.
In addition to the miniseries, Questar’s new edition (dubbed “The Gold Collection,” if the booklet inside the package is any indication) contains a trove of documentaries about Leonardo, detailing the era in which he lived, his masterpieces and inventions, and contrasts his career with that of his contemporary Michelangelo, with whom he shared a rich rivalry.
The booklet also contains a mini-biography and a timeline of Leonardo’s life.