Swiss writer/director Stefan Haupt’s documentary Sagrada, El Misteri de la Creacio (Sacred, The Mystery of Creation) is about one of the world’s most enigmatic, unique, celebrated churches. In 1882 the then-30 year-old architect Antoni Gaudí took over the process of creating and guiding Sagrada Família (Holy Family) in Barcelona. Although the Catalan architect died in 1926, almost 90 years later his minor basilica remains a major construction site still being built.
Gaudí’s eye-popping, imaginative architecture is iconic, sort of Gothic aesthetics colliding with Art Nouveau, a cross between the surrealistic paintings of his fellow Catalan, Salvador Dali, and the Watts Towers. The Spaniards’ spires reach for the sky, soaring towards the heavens with curvy topsy-turvy towers and facades melting like Dali’s watches. Woody Allen used it to great effect as a setting for 2008’s Vicky Christina Barcelona.
Sagrada Família really has to be seen to be believed and Haupt’s nonfiction film does a good job in revealing it, as well as the controversies, mysteries and mystique surrounding this unfinished monument to God and Gaudí. The filmmaker also explores the subterranean depths of the creative process.
Haupt, a gifted director, tells his tale through spiritual, sweeping cinematography - interior, exterior and often aerial - and with usually subtitled interviews plus narration, which Haupt co-wrote with Martin Witz and is spoken in the English version by Trevor Roling.
Sagrada’s cast of characters includes a number of unusual eccentrics who have found meaning in what would otherwise likely be drab existences by attaching their personal fates to that of fulfilling the unfolding of Gaudí’s visionary edifice. The talking head who seems most striking is stonecutter Etsuro Sotoo, a Japanese Zen Buddhist who, while sculpting Sagrada Família, converted to Catholicism in order to understand and pursue what he imagines the mind blowing Gaudí was trying to achieve.
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Haupt, who is one of Switzerland’s top auteurs currently making movies, has made more documentaries than features. The Circle (Der Kreis) is a fact-based drama about the struggle for gay rights in Switzerland that combines fiction and nonfiction film techniques (see: www.youtube.com/watch?v=u_qO03QFGT8). The well-made, heartfelt The Circle was Switzerland’s Official Submission for Best Foreign Language Film at the 87th Academy Awards® and winner of the Panorama Audience Award at 2014’s Berlin International Film Festival, the Teddy Award at 2014’s Berlin International Film Festival and of the Grand Jury Award at 2014’s Outfest Los Angeles. It also scored four Swiss Film Prizes, including for Best Film, Best Screenplay and Best Actor.
Watching Sagrada may make a true believer out of you. This documentary is especially for those interested in architecture, religion, travel and creativity. Haupt’s latest film proves, once again, that Swiss cinema is a force to be reckoned with on the international stage - or rather screen.
Like The Circle, Sagrada, El Misteri de la Creacio is being theatrically released in the U.S., opening April 3 at the Laemmle’s Playhouse 7, 673 East Colorado Blvd., Pasadena, CA. For more info see: www.sagrada-film.ch/news.html. How clever to open this filmic feast for the eyes about the sacred over the Easter/ Passover weekend.
The new book co-authored by L.A.-based reviewer Ed Rampell is "The Hawaii Movie and Television Book" (see: http://hawaiimtvbook.weebly.com/).