Few moviegoers would know that the real Caravaggio was a convicted criminal and even by today's standards, a hell raiser. Rome's police records list fourteen citations in six years, from public nuisance to several violent assaults. In May of 1606 he murdered a friend, one Ranuccio Tomassoni in a sword fight. Added to these lurid details, his sexual interests show that he freely drifted from the Vatican's ordained model. This makes Caravaggio an interesting person, but a highly complex candidate for a biographic investigation on film.
While Derek Jarman's film captures (with delightful conceit) many of the surface details of Caravaggio's life, it's a work of startling genius because it succeeds on a far more profound level. Jarman tells the story of Caravaggio rather like Caravaggio would paint, infusing it (effortlessly) with the central themes of his life's deepest convictions, creating a portrait which reflects the subject and the artist with equal relevance. What's more, many of the same themes that have been identified with both artists - sexuality, transcendence, violence, censorship, politics (religious/sexual) and the tumultuous source of creative identity are present in both men. It works as very few films do. This is also an unusually accessible film for Derek Jarman. The performances are entertaining and it's filmed with astounding beauty and simplicity. This film is a masterpiece.
However, because of it's homosexual themes and personal tone, "Caravaggio" is likely to be appreciated only by those viewers who weary of film as simple diversion and long for something more challenging. This is a powerful artistic statement, but it flew under the radar during a decade of British film-making where "Gandhi", "Chariots of Fire" and "A Room With A View" represented the best of what was being made. While those films are great in their way, this film value is greater in terms of bravura and personal expression. See it if you can.
Derek Jarman.......Director / Screenwriter
Simon Fisher Turner.......Composer
Christopher Hobbs.......Production Designer
Sandy Powell.......Costume Designer
Nigel Terry....... Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio
Dexter Fletcher.......Young Caravaggio
Sean Bean.......Rannuccio Thomasoni
_89 min_PAL_Colour_1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen.
_In English with optional subtitles for the hearing-impaired.
_Commentary by Gabriel Beristain.
_Interviews with Tilda Swinton, Nigel Terry, Christopher Hobbs and Sandy Powell.
_Video and audio interviews with Derek Jarman.
_Storyboards, production sketches etc.