Sotheby’s tapped the Adderall Diaries director to translate Orazio Gentileschi’s 1621 work Danaë into a video to promote its Old Masters sale.
Only a handful of filmmakers can say, “I’d like to thank Zeus,” but count Pamela Romanowsky among them. Romanowsky—whose first feature-length film, The Adderall Diaries, starring Ed Harris and James Franco, premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival last spring—was tapped by Sotheby’s to create a short film bringing Orazio Gentileschi’s baroque masterpiece Danaë to life on film. The painting, which is the star lot of the auction house’s Old Master Paintings sale later this month, depicts the myth of Danaë, who was shut away by her father to prevent a pregnancy that the oracle of Delphi divined would result in a child who would kill him. But no barricade could stop Zeus, who appeared in a shower of gold coins and passementerie, depicted with breathtaking glitz on Gentileschi’s canvas as Cupid, always eager to facilitate a love connection, pulls back a curtain to reveal the eager princess with her arm extended in a graceful gesture of erotic gratitude.
“She’s being rescued—there’s a state of betrayal and abandonment, so I was very interested in expressing that sort of in the fall,” Romanowsky said of the film, which is premiering exclusively on VF.com. “And then she falls out of frame, and you assume that’s where this painting happens. And when she returns, we then get to see how her body language, and movement, and emotional state change so you see how Zeus will interact with her, and he sort of envelopes her.”
Romanowsky’s film is part of the Old Master Painting department’s efforts to bring a deeper understanding of its oeuvre, the works of which often deal with grand and epic subjects that might feel obscure compared to the blockbuster modern and contemporary works that, at least on the surface, seem to make the auction-world wheel spin. Her short unlocks the emotional content of this mythic painting. “The longer I stood with it,” Romanowsky said, “[the more I felt] the tension between these two states, those two emotions: the despair and abandonment, and then the ecstasy of rescue, and finding her partner and her place. . . . It’s a very sensual and emotional moment.”
For Romanowsky, whose Adderall Diaries was based on Stephen Elliott’s memoir of the same name, directing a film based on a painting was illuminating. “I like adapting novels and writing, but also having a painting or a poem to work from, the artist directly communicates with you about what it should feel like, and that’s really incredible,” she said. “It’s not just the plot or the dialogue or the characters—it’s the tone, the mood, the emotional intent.”
- Source: Vanity Fair Culture By: Rachel Tashjian