Ken Burns’ two-part, four-hour documentary Leonardo da Vinci is set to air on November 18-19 from 8-10 p.m. ET on PBS. The project, co-directed with Sarah Burns and Dave McMahon, is Burns’ first non-American subject.
The film explores the life and work of the 15th century artist and how he influenced and inspired future generations. The musician and composer Caroline Shaw recorded original music for the film performed by Attacca Quartet, Sō Percussion and Roomful of Teeth. The voice of da Vinci is read by Italian actor Adriano Giannini. Keith David serves as the film’s narrator.
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Leonardo da Vinci will reveal a significant change in the Burns team’s filmmaking style, which includes using split screens with images, video and sound from different periods to further contextualize da Vinci’s art and scientific explorations.
“No single person can speak to our collective effort to understand the world and ourselves,” said Burns in a statement. “But Leonardo had a unique genius for inquiry, aided by his extraordinary skills as an artist and scientist, that helps us better understand the natural world that we are part of and to appreciate more fully what it means to be alive and human.”
PBS says the project is set against the backdrop of Renaissance Italy, at a time of skepticism and freethinking, regional war and religious upheaval. It will show the artist’s achievements to life through his personal notebooks, primary and secondary accounts of his life, and on-camera interviews with modern scholars, artists, engineers, inventors and admirers.
Leonardo da Vinci is a production of Florentine Films and WETA Washington, D.C. It is directed by Ken Burns, Sarah Burns and McMahon and written by Sarah Burns and McMahon, who produced with Ken Burns and Tim McAleer. Ken Burns is executive producer.
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