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See Classic Artworks Come To Life In Spellbinding "Beauty" Video

Animator and filmmaker Rino Stefano Tagliafierro found inspiration in classical paintings, and found a way to share their emotional impact with the world.

Animator and filmmaker Rino Stefano Tagliafierro has always found the intensity of the emotions he encounters through classical paintings unmatched by other artforms. And when he sat down to craft his latest short film, Beauty, he sought to convey the emotional impact of that artwork on him to an audience who might not be otherwise moved.

"The idea of Beauty is born from the desire to (convey) the main emotions that every person encounters throughout his life path," says Tagliafierro. "Classical art has always attracted my most intense emotions, so I decided to (let it) represent them."

The resulting project, Beauty, is a tour through the human life cycle—from birth to death—that draws on those classical paintings to tell that story in an absorbing way. By adding subtle animation to the artworks he chose, Tagliafierro actively depicts the motion that's only ever implied in the original pieces. The result is a stunning, haunting series of moving images that makes the work feel alive in different—often surreal—ways.

The possibility that these images could be both beautiful and jarring by adding motion is something that Tagliafierro was aware of when he conceived the project. "I've always found the idea to move a frozen image interesting," he explained. "The movements are suspended in a distant time, or appear to come from the imagination of the viewer." In an earlier short, 2011's My Super8, (which screened at nearly a dozen film festivals around the world) Tagliafierro used a similar technique to animate photographic images—which taught him the power of using surreal imagery to convey difficult-to-reach emotions. "[In My Super8], I moved the characters in surreal ambiance," he explained, while in Beauty, he says, "the gestures and looks of the characters can be surreal and bewitched, and this aspect is part of my imagination—a bit creepy and restless—that shines through in all of my work. But my intent was first to convey the emotions you feel when I find myself in front of the masterpieces of classical art. Since Beauty is an emotional story, my main focus was to arouse strong emotions. I hope I succeeded."

The answer to that question is up to the individual viewer, but the diligence of Tagliafierro's process means that, if someone watching Beauty is unmoved, it's not for lack of trying.

"I elaborated the images with photo editing software, and used cut-out digital," he explains of the techniques he used to bring Beauty to life. "It's a meticulous process that consists of the characters cut out from the depths of rebuilding and redesigning the hidden parts. Then, I animated the subjects with After Effects." He passed the work on to the project's sound designer, Enrico Ascoli—but, he says, "The search and selection of images lasted years."

The result is a nine-minute film that spans 115 paintings and the journey from birth to death. There's plenty of beauty to be found in that.

Check the credits for a list of the paintings featured.

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  • Driver Kate

    ... [PART 2] It’s curious how Caravaggio’s pictures are represented in the “Losing My Religion” video ( ), since both R.E.M. songs belong to the same album and video collection (despite “Low” remains unknown for never being published as a single). In my opinion, since in 1991 there weren’t actual technologies, the “Low” video appears even more amazing, innovative and noteworthy.

  • its not the same thing. live action versions of classic paintings have been around for some time. and there was technology in 1991 to let you do this type of effect..

  • Driver Kate

    [PART 1] Tagliafierro’s idea of animating paintings in the “Beauty” video ( ) isn’t very original, since in 1991 James Herbert realized the amazing video of “Low” ( ) for R.E.M.. Both videos are very similar, not only for same idea of moving paintings, but also for their style. In fact, if in the “Low” video the main painting is Elizabeth Jane Gardner’s “La Confidence”, in the Tagliafierro’s one the same painter appears as the author of “Too Imprudent” and portrayed in the “Portrait of Miss Elizabeth Gardner” by her husband/teacher William Adolphe Bouguereau. Then Bouguereau himself is the most shown artist (together with Caravaggio) in “Beauty”, giving a stylistic mark to the whole video. ...

  • This is truly remarkable! Hypnotic. Eerie. Gorgeous. Frighteningly aesthetic. I could not keep wishing the motion would continue through for each painting. Something unearthly yet deeply human and real about every single moment. Something absolutely fresh and disturbingly joyous. Thank you!