Who would want to destroy a man who paints this beautifully?
The genre of MONET is clearly biography but fundamentally it is a hero’s journey – an individual with extraordinary vision and ability going against the establishment and emerging victorious. MONET, by screenwriter Dick Sussman is the first feature film to portray the little-known dramatic story of Claude Monet’s heroic struggle enduring 25 years of censorship, public ridicule and poverty as he leads a revolution that changes the way we see the world.
As AMADEUS conjured the musical worlds that Mozart inhabited and created MONET celebrates the artist’s ravishing painting and his own heartbreaking, challenging, and color-filled world. It dramatically explores the paradox of a troubled and complex genius creating sun-drenched, carefree scenes that radiate serenity and pleasure.
Sensitive as a poet amidst nature Claude Monet is seen as one of the most rugged and masculine of all artists – often trekking 20 miles each day along cliffs and seashores, riverbanks and valleys, forests and fields, carrying 60 pounds of equipment. In MONET, more than a few abusers and antagonists tremble with fear when the artist, pushed beyond his limits, seizes and manhandles them with his powerful arms.
Who would want to destroy a man who paints this beautifully? And will Monet succeed within his own lifetime, and see the end of France’s total suppression of him and his fellow Impressionists?
Persecuted much like the early Jews and Christians, steadfast in their own unconventional beliefs, Monet and his followers embark on a similar road that promises only poverty, rejection and lifelong sacrifice. We witness their unprecedented artist camaraderie as they share their discoveries and their meager belongings – and we feel the intensity of their passions, obsessions, hatreds and quarrels.
Throughout MONET the audience senses its inspiring universal themes about the value of persistence and determination; staying true to your passions; the need to be open to new ways of seeing things; and to clearly and pleasurably observe the world’s beauty.
Monet’s character, loves, and amazing accomplishments unfold via the memories of his eternally obsessed elder self: tormented, nearly blind, yet unable to stop painting. His true story follows the growth of his abilities and invincible determination – from the adolescent discovery of his color genius, through to his courageous leadership and inspiration of followers against the censoring forces of an entire government. In a seemingly unwinnable struggle lasting to his fifties, he faces the prospect of a wasted life, still unrecognized by his countrymen and the world.
At a time when France rigidly controls the painting methods, subjects, and exhibitions of artists, Claude Monet is born – gifted with vision that sees nuances of light no camera could ever record. His childhood passion for nature becomes an obsession to express what he sees there. Painting in the open air, he ignores all conventions for making art, despising the artificial, contrived studio work mandated by the government. Opposed by his father and his teachers, his passion and new ideas attract a beautiful young woman and a group of acolytes that includes the artists Renoir, Cezanne, and Pissarro. They follow Monet’s “heretical” beliefs that each painting is an experiment, that every artist should be free to paint any subject anywhere he chooses, and by whatever methods he chooses.
Labeling them as radicals, the government sends spies to observe their meetings, requires officials to exclude them from exhibitions, and persuades columnists to foment public ridicule. Galleries are warned against displaying their art, and hired troublemakers sabotage the group’s public exhibits and auctions.
Monet’s Impressionism is the most revolutionary development in the history of art and as such, is considered a threat to established order and government control. Eight French governments have been overturned within the lifetime of Monet’s elders, and all classes of French citizens are now tired and fearful of revolutions. Radicals and their movements and new ideas are to be suppressed and destroyed. The dark museum art and technique of the Old Masters represent ancient stability and nothing else is acceptable to anyone in Monet’s time.
As the movement’s leader, Monet is impoverished for years, with limited food and painting supplies, and faces near-certain failure despite his extraordinary talent. Shaken by the tragic early deaths of his wife and artist friends, and desperate to provide for his young children, he submits compromised art to a government exhibition only to earn further public abuse and the contempt of his fellow Impressionists.
More alone than ever, his artistic drive is undiminished, then further supported when he finds new love and a second family. With renewed enthusiasm he continues to perfect his unprecedented accuracy in observing effects of atmosphere and weather, discovering the radiance of light on everyday things.
Driven by the need to prove the honesty and power of his Impressionism to himself and to his countrymen, Monet embarks on brutally hard distant campaigns, nearly drowning while painting an ocean storm and enduring extremes of wind, rain, scorching heat, and sub-zero cold.
Health ruined, he’s crippled with arthritic pain and warned by doctors to never paint outdoors again. Spirit wavering, success nearly impossible, he has to find the inner strength to continue.
And he does – in a triumphant, life-affirming climax.