Tim's Vermeer Review
"Can i just say for the record: This is the hardest thing I've ever done. AND I haven't started painting yet. This better fucking work." -Tim Jenison
I never studied art or its history when I was in school, I did not know much about Johannes Vermeer. It took a viewing of “Tim’s Vermeer” for me to look and appreciate the amazing work by Vermeer. Vermeer made a name for himself for his oil paintings that look damn near close to High Definition pictures. Let’s remember that Vermeer’s reached the height of his career in the 17th Century, way before top-of-the-line technology or anything vaguely resembling that technology. One of the world’s great mysteries has always been how Vermeer was able to create such powerful artwork, artwork that borders on the eerie. How could somebody make something so rich in detail, so structured in realism and so powerful to the eye without some kind of device? There are those who truly believe that Vermeer’s work came from his mind’s eye, the question has always been how?
This is the premise for “Tim’s Vermeer,” a powerful documentary that revolves around Tim Jenison. Jenison is quite the remarkable man himself. When he was a teenager he fixed a piano all by himself with no help, and then taught himself how to make televisions and computers. Since then, Jenison has become an inventor and has made a decent living by creating a television equipment company. Being an inventor gives you a unique mind, which can lead to some incredible hobbies. Jenison has been immersed in the art by Vermeer, astounded like all of us by just how Vermeer was able to create. Jenison begins to examine and explore the works by Vermeer in order to deduce how he was able to paint the art he painted. The movie assembles one particular theory. That Vermeer create a mirror device that he helped up to a picture and Vermeer painted in the particular shadings needed, creating something rather remarkable. Jenison sets out to copy one of Vermeer’s paintings to see if his theory was right and Jenison’s results are more than an eye opener.
A documentary exploring how Vermeer became the artist he was would be entertaining and thought-provoking by it, actually watching Tim Jenison create a room in a warehouse that directly mimics the room of Vermeer’s “The Music Lesson” just to see if his theory is correct is icing on the cake. The movie feels less about a particular man’s obsession and more about the exploration of two unique men. Jenison is an interesting man by himself; I mean being able to teach yourself to build a TV is pretty cool to me. So the idea that he created a mirror device and took a amateur shot at oil painting is awfully cool too. The documentary also benefits from Jenison having a hip personality. He makes this movie have a soul and feel alive. Because let’s face it, watching a guy spend 70+ days trying to recreate a painting sounds pretty dry, but Jenison along with crew make the experience worthwhile, in fact they really mold the documentary into an experience and not just a special you’d watch on the History Channel. The swift dedication of Jenison’s craft is told through a potent eye and it is masterful to watch.
The documentary was directed by Teller of Penn and Teller fame, which is kind of cool by itself. Teller makes his documentary short, sweet and to-the- point, but it’s hard to ignore the rich detail. I love that this was a brainwave through not one but two geniuses. After the documentary, I feel that perhaps Jenison’s theory was correct and I was blown away by the results. I think you will too.
FINAL GRADE: A