I haven’t seen a film as simultaneously charming, inspiring, and thought-provoking as Tim’s Vermeer in a long time, perhaps ever. While the documentary details Tim Jenison’s quest to discover and reproduce how Johannes Vermeer painted in the 1600s, and explores ideas about art and technology, it’s ultimately just absurdly fun.
Tim’s Vermeer is directed by Teller, whose partner in magic and other TV shows, Penn Jillette, narrates the film and appears in it; Tim Jenison is a friend of the magicians, so Teller was there with cameras from nearly the start of his experiments, showing Jillette how he painted a portrait of his father-in-law despite never having painted before.
But it’s Jenison himself who carries the entire thing. He’s a made-for-TV personality, and I say that as a compliment: articulate, funny, passionate. I’d watch a weekly series during which he tinkered with things. When I watched, the theatre audience simultaneously gasped and said “wow” multiple times at the things he was doing and accomplishing.
The film is just 80 minutes long but covers about eight years, and both Jenison and his project are presented via terrific camera work and editing that captures and condenses his process exceptionally well. The painstaking process of creation–and oh, the patience he has–is conveyed without the movie being slow itself.
Teller talked about the film with NPR, and it’s worth a listen, but since a lot of the film is discovery, I’d say that the less information you have, the better. So, if you’re not yet convinced, watch the trailer below, or maybe just go see it: it’s now in theatres and opening in more throughout April.