review for Rembrandt on AllMovie

Rembrandt (1936)
by Craig Butler review

Looking uncannily like the real artist, Charles Laughton makes Rembrandt a memorable motion picture experience. Not that the film is without other assets. The script is literate (a bit too much so in places, bogging down in dialogue when it needs to soar a bit more), although it follows the grand cinema tradition of taking dramatic license with historical fact. And while it is hardly more than a series of vignettes, it does provide Laughton with the requisite big scenes and chances for character delineation. Director Alexander Korda and his cinematographers also do a fine job of giving the film a visual texture that is reminiscent of Rembrandt's work. And the supporting cast, especially marvelous Else Lanchester and the rarely-seen (on film) Gertrude Lawrence, are a definite plus. Still, the film rises or falls upon Laughton, and he is up to everything that is required of him. The tortured soulfulness that is underlie so much of Laughton's work -- that feeling that there's an angel caught inside a monster's form - is given greater rein here. Laughton also perfectly captures the stubbornness (or determination, depending upon one's point of view), temperament, scorn and tenderness, and he takes full advantage of such showcase pieces as the declamations on the wonder of love and on the foolishness of humans that frame the film. Although the film could have used a more cohesive script, Laughton's performance alone makes it a not-to-be-missed classic.