An 'essayistic' documentary in which Greenaway's fierce criticism of today's visual illiteracy is argued by means of a forensic search of Rembrandt's Nightwatch. Greenaway explains the background, the context, the conspiracy, the murder and the motives of all its thirty-four painted characters who have conspired to kill for their combined self-advantage. Greenaway leads us through Rembrandt's paintings into seventeenth-century Amsterdam. He paints a world that is democratic in principle, but is almost entirely ruled by twelve families. The notion exists of these regents as charitable and compassionate entities. However, reality was different.
Icarus-like, Rembrandt flew ever higher towards the sun - the most successful artist in the richest city on earth, 17th-century Amsterdam. He lived like a prince and he loved living like a prince. But when his fall came - deep into bankruptcy and scandal, poverty and unfashionability - far from destroying him, it took him to new creative heights and a sense of humanity and the human condition that speaks more directly to us today than Rembrandt in his heyday. Simon Schama celebrates the masterpieces of the last years to coincide with the National Gallery's major exhibition on late Rembrandt.
In the final year of his life, Rembrandt painted a series of self-portraits that show him in a dark, lonely state of mind. Stelling has painstakingly recreated the pathetic end of a genius with an authenticity that allows viewers to infer their own conclusions about the relationship between Rembrandt's life and art.