Paola Bizzarri

Making Moretti & Michelangelo proud

Peek into how Big Image recreated the Sistine Chapel, with extraordinary precision, for the Cannes nominated movie “We have a pope”

Imagine showing Michelangelo this image, at the end of his four years in the marble tomb, telling him about a future technique called premium printing.

Renowned Italian movie producer Nanni Moretti had sky high ambitions when recreating his country’s architectural crown jewel the Sistine Chapel as the setting. As expected, the Vatican said no to filming inside the real room and set designer Paola Bizzarri took on the challenge of realizing Moretti’s vision for the comedy-drama “Habemus Papam”. Together with Big Image she produced 1,800 square meters of exact colours, perspectives and dimensions, making the result nothing short of divine.

No detail is too small when making it big. 

Filming in a strictly “no cameras” location

Even though the Vatican gave its blessing for the film itself, they did not consent to filming inside the chapel. This meant set designer Paola Bizzarri had to get creative looking for a solution to reproduce one of the most famous painted interior spaces in the world, created with strong attention to detail. Since photos and visits are extremely limited instructions had to be created from limited sources, all that was available was precise measurements of the chapel, photographs taken by Massimo Siragusa and Bizzarri’s memory from standing inside the chapel.

The oldest theatre in Europe, Teatro Di San Carlo in Naples heard about the challenge and knew, from trusting Big Image with their high aesthetic standards before, that Big could be trusted with a challenge this intricate. They recommended Bizzarri turn to Bigs expertise to make the vision come to life.

 

Crafting a large scale replica of the Sistine Chapel

Michelangelo spent four years on the chapel’s roof. 500 years later Big was given three months to reconstruct the whole of the Sistine Chapel in Cinecittá studios. Big Image guided the extended team through these months filled with debates about colours, perspectives, materials and test runs. 

The result of the collaboration was a breathtaking recreation, measuring 49.0 meters long, 13.4 meters wide and 20.7 meters high (1,800 square meters) created by the hands of Big Image’s craftsmen, and printed on the one of a kind premium printer Infinitius.

It allowed Moretti to proceed executing his production as if they had access to the coveted room for the duration of the filming, allowing actors and crew to truly stand inside the Sistine Chapel, as opposed to in front of a green screen while adding CGI as a budget cost point.

This quote from a Hollywood Reporter review says it all:

“What the film offers is a well-written, surprisingly mainstream comedy with an unbeatable setting, the Vatican’s inner chambers, brilliantly recreated by production designer Paola Bizzarri from an astute collage of Roman palaces and churches and shot through with bold cardinal red by cinematographer Alessandro Pesci. The illusion of being in the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican gardens alongside the Princes of the Church is satisfyingly complete.”

To learn more about our recreation of the Sistine Chapel, or how we can help take your idea from imagination to installation – get in touch!