A successful innovator and entrepreneur, desktop video visionary Tim Jenison's wealth affords him the freedom to take his time at things. There is an element of play about the things he invents; he gets a kick out of it all and his patience is quite remarkable.
This beguiling film tracks Tim's eight-year Vermeer project, his ambition to paint in exact detail the Dutch artist's celebrated 29-by-25-inch painting, The Music Lesson, executed between 1662 and 1664. Tim has no painting skills, but he has read two books on the use of optics and perspective in the work of Johannes Vermeer by two Englishmen, one by the artist David Hockney, the other by David Steadman.
Although it cannot be proven, it is generally assumed that Vermeer used a camera obscura, a box with a pinhole which projects the reflection of what you want to paint, upside down. Tim's theory is that the great Dutch master also employed magnifying lenses and mirrors to achieve his startling, life-like results.
There are no sketch lines underneath Vermeer's paintings, so he was painting photo-realism, Tim argues. He meets David Hockney, who is genuinely impressed by his thesis, although no one can offer definitive proof. Hockney assures the inventor that the artist would have written nothing down, in order to keep his valuable skills a secret.
Tim sets out to paint The Music Lesson using the mirror and lens device. It takes him 213 days to build an actual room where he attempts to replicate the conditions in which Vermeer worked. He grinds his own lens and visits Delft in the Netherlands. There he asks a potter to make a jug like the one in the actual painting. Even though he is not adept at wood-turning and lathe-work, Tim decides to make the Spanish chair that features in the painting.
In this film - produced by his friend, illusionist Penn Jillette, and directed by Jillette's colleague Teller - Tim is opening up the fascinating world of the Dutch master, both for himself and for us, the viewers of the film. Every Irish school should show it to every pupil. Opening at the Light House Cinema.