Review: 'Sin' So Exquisitely Crafted

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Friday February 19, 2021

Alberto Testone in 'Sin'
Alberto Testone in 'Sin'  

With "Sin" ("Il Peccato"), Russian director Andrey Konchalovskiy turns his inquisitive gaze upon the mediaeval artist Michelangelo (Alberto Testone), the famed artist whose frescoes on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel remain iconic to this day.

When Pope Leo X (Simone Toffanin), a member of the powerful and ruthless Medici family, ascends to the papacy in 1513, he tasks Michelangelo with the design and creation of the facade for the San Lorenzo Basilica. Though he has already been commissioned by Leo's predecessor, Julius II (Massimo De Francovich) — himself from the powerful Della Rovere family — to create an elaborate tomb, Michelangelo accepts the commission. It's an unwise choice, given that this puts the artist in a bind between the two families.

But it's also inevitable, given the combustible mix of insecurity, arrogance, brilliance, and instability that define Michelangelo's personality. Though personally filthy — he dresses in rags and never bathes — the artist has a vision for the tomb that requires him to secure "marble as white as sugar," a commodity he sources, at great cost, from a quarry in Carrara. There, he becomes fixated on an enormous block of marble he insists he must have whole — not cut into pieces — despite the unprecedented challenges behind transporting the behemoth, nicknamed "the Monster."

But those challenges are hardly a match for Michelangelo's passion, and his genius; the artist personally comes up with method for moving the great block of marble, even as other monstrous forces (including his own fraying state of mind) come into play. One such threat is Francesco Maria della Rovere (Antonio Gargiulo), the nephew of the late Julius II, who exerts pressure on Michelangelo even as the Medicis seek to force his full attention on the work he has promised them.

Dangers both political and physical close in on Michelangelo and his two assistants: The slightly sketchy Peppe (Jakob Diehl) and the young, trusting Pietro (Francesco Gaudiello). These two, who are utterly devoted and yet also under their own personal pressures, form a kind of family unit for Michelangelo that is much more tightly knit, but no less perilous, than the familial claims that both the Medicis and the Della Roveros lay on him. Jealousies, uncertain loyalties, and constantly-tested bonds of trust make all these relationships volatile, and tragic consequences could await around any corner.

Konchalovskiy brings an eye for historical accuracy in terms of place and time, and the production has a feel of authenticity about it. The director uses this authenticity to bolster the film's psychological elements, which sometimes take the form of overwhelming religious superstition and guilt-ridden paranoia. (As great a sculptor as he might have been, Michelangelo is depicted here as a much clumsier chiseler when it comes to matters of money; and, while his hands seem possessed of a divine talent, his heart is forever tempted and tormented by his own moral shortcomings.)

Konchalovskiy secures memorable work from his entire cast (including a cadre of colorful quarry workers, various of Michelangelo's friends and professional rivals, and the warring Della Roveres and Medicis), but especially from Testone, who, in the main role, delivers a complex and indelible performance.

"Sin" premieres on virtual cinemas on Feb. 19. For more information, follow this link.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.