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Venice Revealed

3 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Product Description

“Insightful and absorbing” —The Times (U.K.)
The artistic past and precarious future of the floating city

Art, architecture, music, and theatre in Italy’s most enchanted city

For centuries, Venice has fired the imaginations of painters, poets, composers--and millions of visitors. Join writer and historian Peter Ackroyd for an in-depth tour of the art, architecture, music, and theatre of Europe’s most mysterious and seductive city.

Here, the pale Mediterranean light reveals cityscapes as painted by Canaletto and Guardi, modern voices revive the soaring spirituality of Vivaldi’s hymns, and Venetians still don disguises to revel and role-play at Carnival. Exploring private palazzos, magnificent churches, and winding alleyways, Ackroyd also discovers the truth beneath the artifice, where beauty masks terminal decay. He interviews preservationists now working desperately to rescue the city’s treasures from the ravages of time and the sea. Always a perceptive critic and spellbinding storyteller, Ackroyd serves as the perfect guide for an unforgettable journey.

An award-winning novelist and bestselling historian, Peter Ackroyd (London: The Biography) has written over 30 books and presented many TV documentaries. He is a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.


Based on travel writer Peter Ackroyd's book Venice, Pure City, this four-episode documentary series about Venice, Italy, far surpasses the average dull DVD glimpse at the real place. Tourists preparing to travel to this ancient European city, or even art history students, will find Venice Revealed informative and semi-entertaining. In this BBC hit, Peter Ackroyd narrates episodes organized thematically by artistic genre: architecture, art, music, and theater are the areas he lends his expertise to. Instead of hitting tourist neighborhoods with his camera in hand, Ackroyd strategically wanders the city, musing about buildings, works of art, festivals, classical songs, and the men who invented them. Indeed, Venice Revealed, with Ackroyd pontificating about masterpieces galore, does feel like a men's club, but the influential work that has been inspired by Venice is unassailable. Therefore, one is left to sit back and wonder what it is about this city of canals that enabled so many men to make so much over the centuries. The "Architecture" episode, for example, highlights several architectural elements and structures found throughout Venice, including those made in the Romanesque, Venetian Gothic, rococo, and Renaissance styles. One professor Ackroyd interviews rightly calls Venice a "multilayered cake," and from there the viewer gets a heavy dose of biography about 19th-century art and architecture critic John Ruskin, who chronicled Venice's rich architectural variety. The "Art" episode dwells on the Renaissance but covers the 14th through 19th centuries, discussing Tiepolo, Tintoretto, Giorgio, Canaletto, and Titian, to name a few. In "Music," one learns almost too much about Antonio Vivaldi, that 17th-century classical genius. In the "Theater" episode, Ackroyd visits the world-famous La Fenice opera house and the Carnival, renowned for its lurid costuming and masquerade balls. While all of this feels rather stock for a historical treatment of Venice, what distinguishes this series from others is Ackroyd's commentaries that conceptually link all the arts. In these intelligent summations, Ackroyd notes a Venetian love of improvisation, the Venetian desire to keep up appearances, and the Italian importance of the family unit. In all, one comes away with a decent understanding of not only this city's surface, but the human motivations that have built it. --Trinie Dalton

Special Features

12-page viewer’s guide with highlights, questions to consider, avenues for further learning, interview with Peter Ackroyd, story of the Great Flood of 1966, gondola facts, and more
Biographies of Venetian architechts, artists, playwrights, and composers
Venice on film
Exclusive web extras
SDH subtitles

Product Details

  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Athena
  • DVD Release Date: July 13, 2010
  • Run Time: 164 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B003HE2AY0
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #104,159 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

It would be impossible to learn more, see more, experience more of Venice even if you lived in the city for a month. Peter Ackroyd does an excellent job as narrator, and writer, for "VENICE REVEALED." It is based on his own book, "Venice Pure City", and this in-depth, entertaining, but also educational experience leaves the viewer as enchanted as if you actually were there in person. You will feel the passion and seduction of this romantic city by way of the visuals and Ackroyd's tutorial guiding through the 4 distinctively different episodes of Venice.

I wish I'd seen this DVD set, 'VENICE REVEALED', prior to my own visit of the city. This set offers subtitles which I found helpful for location names. It also subtitled when an interview was conducted with a Italian-speaking individual. About the only thing visible in person, but not shown on this documentary, is the trash floating on the water, left behind by inconsiderate tourists. This DVD is powerful, both audibly as well as visually. Wonderful music accompaniment.

Episode details:
1 THE CITY AS ARCHITECTURE-Arrival is by boat taxi. Buildings were built in this city on water. Venice is like no other earthly city. The visual is so captivating that listening closely to the historical accounts is a trial. John Ruskin's, "The Stones of Venice", highlights the masonry architecture of 5 styles. Venice is architecturally a mask: facade over decaying brick. Yet, underwater wood piles support the unique aesthetic structures.

2 THE CITY AS ART-There is not a parcel of Venice that has not been featured in fine visual art. The city itself is so powerfully ready for the artist, it's like the master painter arranged buildings, canals, bridges, and water as he did fruits for his still-life works.
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I was eagerly looking forward to seeing Ackroyd's commentary on my favourite city but I have to say that I was very disappointed. From the opening sequence (repeated endlessly) where Ackroyd enters Venice on a water taxi to the strains of Dies Irae the whole thing appears very cliched. Don't look for original insights...there are none. But if you enjoy seeing a tiresome and pedantic 60 plus year old Englishman with a pronounced speech impediment, and an annoying habit of leaving his shirt unbuttoned, then this is the DVD for you!
He acknowledges in the jacket that in writing the book on which the DVD is based he NEVER SPOKE TO A SINGLE VENETIAN! What an amazing admission for any author.
I viewed all 4 titles in the 2 disc DVD set and the only one with any redeeming qualities was the last -Venice as Theatre.
What a disappointment! An opportunity wasted to do a good documentary on the most fascinating city on the planet.
PS Please tell us which music was used in the making of the DVD - the music is in fact the best part of the whole DVD set!
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Yikes, I really thought that this would be better than it was. Ackroyd has next to no original insights into Venice, its art or history. Cliche ridden drivel about Venice being a city of decay and death,a city of surfaces and illusion, etc. Very typical Anglo-centric (it was Byron who started the death myth and the Brits ate it up) misinterpretation of Venice. Ackroyd's shallowness is revealed in an interview on another website about this video when he states he loved making this video because he got to meet real Venetians, something he never did while writing the book that this series is based on!

Other annoyances: while talking about a work of art they show some work other than the one he's referring to; playing the Dies Ire from Mozart Requiem waaaay to much: barely mentioning Monteverdi in the segment on Venice and music; using the same footage of Ackroyd in a boat on a canal over and over again. Admittedly these last failings are the directors faults and not Ackroyds. I will say the segment on Venice and theater was not as bad as the other sections.

A good point is that some interesting scholars and writers get interviewed like Ruskin exponent Sarah Quill and Vivaldi researcher Micky White. One only wishes they were the focus of the series and not Ackroyd and his hackneyed observations.

I'd say skip this one and get "Francesco's Venice" a way superior look at Venice by a Venetian with better cinematography and greater depth and scope than this. I would say that but for some reason this excellent BBC series still is only available in Britain in a Region 2 version. But if you have hacked your DVD player to play all regions by all means pass on Ackroyd and go for Francesco.
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Contrary to his other works on famous cities, Ackroyd's book and now, much much much worse, this DVD is among the most vapid and terrible documentaries I have ever seen.

The pictures bear no relationship to the narration about 50 percent of the time and the same footage is used in episode after episode.

Do not buy this.
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Ruskin's volumes on Venice, written in the 19th century is the landmark work on art and architecture in the city. The problem for the researcher is that it is long out of print and used copies are difficult to find and very pricey. This book, published in 1976 is essentially a scholarly presentation of the Venetian Index,with comments,that is more accessible to the amateur historian. I'm very glad to have it as I prepare for my visit to Venice in September of this year.
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