Film Review – Inside the Mind of Leonardo

Inside the Mind of Leonardo

Inside the Mind of Leonardo

Da Vinci has been a subject that has been dealt with several times in film, television, books, you name it, so Inside the Mind of Leonardo‘s idea of taking Da Vinci’s own words (spoken beautifully by Peter Capaldi) and drawings to get across more about the man is a novel approach. While there is some interesting animation of Da Vinci’s sketches and while Peter Capaldi has a presence that gives Da Vinci’s words the respect they deserve, director Julian Jones gets slogged down in several superfluous scenes and a lack of flow.

The start of this was worrying in how long it took to really get into the structure of the film. We just have Capaldi’s opening monologue and then we move over the city of Milan for several minutes before moving into a museum that houses Da Vinci’s journals, where we are informed through written text on screen that every word in this film is Da Vinci’s own. This technique for getting Da Vinci’s ideas out ends up with mixed results. Da Vinci is a fascinating figure and has some intriguing ideas and says them eloquently and Capaldi repeats these works with a conviction and passion that is a credit to his acting talent. Yet these moments of talking, while they can have a connection structure wise, with the bits we hear about Da Vinci’s life we get some connective words of Da Vinci’s about the incident, but then quickly move into the next passion of Da Vinci. So while several ideas that are spoken about can be fascinating, it can also become too much stream of consciousness, with a lack of connectivity that makes it easy to forget what was just talked about.

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It doesn’t help that the director spends so much time with random camera shots of the cities Da Vinci lived in that do not appear to have any point. Sometimes the exposition text appears in these moments, but that still makes it hard to justify the amount of time dwelling on things that have nothing to do with Da Vinci. Sometimes these modern scenes have a tentative connection of Da Vinci talking about food and being in a grocery store or talking about the angular nature of faces, and we see examples of all these types form people on a bus. Again, this is mixed. The bus scene was interesting and gave a sense of how Da Vinci was able to see the world, while the grocery store one was repeating what Capaldi said a scene ago and then moving into a new topic, but now we just have images of a supper market.

Where there was great success was in the animating of Da Vinci’s sketches, which, in my opinion, are his most beautiful images he has given us. To bring them to life, seeing his war machines in motion, a picture of a small valley with animated rain as he talks about rain. These were effective because it felt like we were seeing into how Da Vinci was seeing the world around him in motion. Yet if we then moved to the real world with those same words, the effect would become lost because the images became ordinary.

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When they would go over aspects of Da Vinci’s life, I would remember an earlier History Channel Da Vinci that I saw called Da Vinci and the Code He Lived By, which gets more into the details of Da Vinci’s life and where he was and what he was directly working on and discovers about nature and his other interests. This previous knowledge also was better at keeping me at a sense of where Da Vinci was in his life when this film gave us its exposition titles. This made me think about what does Inside the Mind of Leonardo want us to get from this experience? We can hear some of Da Vinci’s words and that is different, but I do not feel like there was a wider context to give me a greater sense of who Da Vini was.

There are some interesting ideas here and some success in getting across Da Vinci’s thoughts. The animation is good and the dialogue is spoken well, but the lack of a structure in the way information is presented causes a lack of retention of what has happened. In the end, this makes for a mostly forgettable, but vaguely informative, experience.




Benjamin is a film connoisseur and Oscar watcher who lives in Minneapolis and, when not reviewing movies, works at the Hennepin County Library.

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