Renaissance: A Film By Beyoncé opened exclusively in AMC theatres on December 1, 2023. The 168-minute film chronicles the evolution of the 5-month world tour from inception to completion. Viewers experience the concert from the opening act to the closing song, along with what happened behind the curtain added intermittently, serving as intermissions between sets.
As I sat in the theatre waiting for the movie to begin, I felt the same excited and anxious energy that filled my body when I attended the concert on her first showing in Atlanta.
The film opened with Beyoncé warming up backstage, quickly followed by a montage of memorable moments from her life and career. We see her move from backstage to the lift as she prepares to perform the opening song, “Dangerously In Love.”
Suddenly, it’s like I’m back in the Mercedes Benz Stadium. Especially when she moved on to the next song, “Flaws and All,” and I recognized the lime green gown from my show. During this song, we begin seeing Beyoncé’s infamous outfit transitions as she selects her favorite looks from the 140-plus outfits she wore throughout the tour.
The film’s sound design plays a large part in making you feel like you’re in the audience at a live show. Beyoncé’s booming voice fills the theatre. You’re able to feel the vibrations of the instruments and her vibrato. You become enveloped by the experience of The Renaissance Tour.
Beyoncé disappears from the stage once again, and the beginning of the first intermission plays on the LED screen. From then on, the audience begins to see the veil lift. We quickly learn what it takes to create a show like the Renaissance: 4 years, hundreds of stage designs, three hand-built stages, and a whole lot of bees working to support the machine. Beyoncé makes a point to acknowledge the audience as an integral part of the show.
“It’s more than a concert. It’s a culture. It’s a state of mind. It’s a release. It’s a fantasy come true.”
‘Renaissance’ displays in chrome letters contrast with a plain black screen. A seamless edit transports the audience back to the live concert as we see the same chrome title displayed on the stage’s LED screen. One of many smooth transitions throughout the film, with the outfit changes during the performances being the most prominent. The “Cozy,” “Diva,” and “My Power” transitions coming out as my favorites.
This section of the concert film allows the viewer to see the results of the cameras I saw whirring around Beyoncé and the dancers during the live show. The film was clearly a large part of the planning process, as the robotic camera movements complemented the movement of the choreography beautifully.
I began to notice details I either didn’t notice or couldn’t see from my seat at the concert. The film shows certain angles only visible if you were on stage with the performers. There are small choreographed movements that pair well with the lyrics of the song. Lights on the stage are shown in overhead shots and you can hear background vocals that weren’t a part of the original recording on the album. Not only does the film allow fans who weren’t in attendance at the concert to feel like they’re there, but those who were in attendance can watch it many times and still notice something new each time. Especially those who weren’t at the concerts where she performed a trio of songs fans affectionately called the Big 3 and had special guests like Megan Thee Stallion, Diana Ross, and Kendrick Lamar.
Despite this, I left my first viewing of the film disappointed. As someone who followed the tour through other fan’s posts on social media, there were so many moments I wanted to know more of. I felt like the intended audience of the film was most likely other fans who did the same. They also expressed their desire to see these moments. Some left the theater feeling like many questions went unanswered. There was a portion where social media posts flashed on the screen, which showed Beyoncé was aware of the role it played during the tour.
However, I looked outside of myself and realized not only did they have to fit a nearly 3-hour concert in the movie, but also the origin story of each section of the show. While it would’ve been nice to see the most viral moments of the tour, I’m glad the personal story wasn’t sacrificed to satisfy social media.
Many fans and viewers alike have posted how inspired they felt after seeing the love and intention put into the project. LGBT+ viewers expressed gratitude for the illumination and recognition they received in the concert and the film. TikTok creator @blerdronner, described the film as “A celebration of humanity.” Others expressed how inspired they felt to go after their dreams after seeing Beyoncé relentlessly fight for her vision.
It wasn’t until I went back and watched all of Beyoncé’s filmography that I had a deeper appreciation for the Renaissance film. It’s a perfect blend of Beyoncé: I Am…World Tour and Life Is But A Dream. I was able to see what it took for her to get to this point in her career. She now has full creative control of her music and vision. I saw all the nods from her past performances she included in the Renaissance Tour. Lastly, I was able to see her growth not only as an artist but as a human being. Renaissance is truly a beautiful culmination of her life and artistry.
Every filmmaker knows how much planning goes into creating a great film so to plan a stunning live performance in tandem with an equally experiential film is no small feat.
Beyoncé balances her roles as a mother, performer, and businesswoman.
After a larger-than-life performance of the first 3 songs on the album, Beyoncé begins to connect the audience to her humanity by discussing her relationship to time, her experience as a black woman, and the genuine tiredness that comes from hard work and dedication. The film continues like this for the next 2 and a half hours, going back and forth from the concert to the behind-the-scenes footage. There are moments where you’re so engrossed in the personal footage that you forget there’s a concert happening. It’s a perfect metaphor for how Beyoncé’s life felt during the tour as she balances her roles as a mother, performer, and businesswoman.
I’ll be honest and say that after the 2-hour mark, the film can feel like it was dragging. While the concert and film are about the same amount of time, it is a different experience in theatres for several reasons. During the concert, you’re able to not only feed off of the performer’s energy but also feed off the energy of the other members of the audience. Despite being on my feet and dancing for most of the concert, I didn’t notice any tiredness in my body until it was over. I can’t say the same for my viewing experience in theater. Additionally, the concert is non-stop action-packed entertainment with brief intermissions in between as opposed to 20 to 30-minute intermissions of personal footage. While I felt the concert was over way too soon, I was constantly checking the time in the AMC theater.
I’m hesitant to say there should’ve been less behind-the-scenes footage because I genuinely enjoyed the intimacy it provided. The pacing would’ve been better overall if the editor made the necessary tough choices in the cutting room. Or if the intermissions were placed in a more cohesive way to tell a long story instead of fragmented parts. It also makes it hard for me to comment on every aspect of the film like I want to without this review dragging.
If you plan to catch Renaissance: A Film By Beyoncé, bring your stamina, wear some comfy clothes, and expect to purchase snacks to carry you through. More importantly, arrive with an openness to receive the love and intention Beyoncé put into the project. Along with a willingness to be inspired because I can guarantee you leave with a deeper understanding of what it takes to be Queen Bey.
© Courtni Hill (2/9/24) – Special for FF2 Media ®
LEARN MORE/DO MORE
Watch the trailer for the film here.
Listen to the album on Spotify here.
CREDITS & PERMISSIONS
Featured/middle photo: Film poster for RENAISSANCE: A FILM BY BEYONCÉ (2023) Photo Credit: FlixPix / Parkwood Entertainment / Alamy Stock Photo. Image ID: 2T8B0B3
Bottom photo: Beyoncé in RENAISSANCE: A FILM BY BEYONCÉ (2023). Photo Credit: Pictorial Press Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo. Image ID: 2WBAFPM