Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1573-1610) was the last, perhaps the greatest, and certainly the most controversial painter of the Italian Renaissance. The late great Derek Jarman’s stylishly bold tribute to the violative artist features Nigel Terry as Caravaggio, a bad-boy of Italian aristocracy who scandalized the established order with his faintly erotic paintings of often naked saints modeled by prostitutes and street urchins.
Jarman portrays Caravaggio as a man of intense passions – artistically, emotionally and physically – who was also bisexual, with a taste for “rough trade.” Sean Bean, long before his turn as Ned Stark on “Game of Thrones,” co-stars as the bisexual Ranuccio, the artist’s rugged lover. Jarman’s regular muse, the incomparable Tilda Swinton, is also on hand as Lena, the beautiful mistress who comes between these two men.
A quirky yet elegant film, blending anachronistic playfulness (a technique Jarman would use again in Edward II, also available now on Dekkoo) with a touching homoerotic love story, spectacular camera work and a complex, impressionistic feel, Caravaggio is a unique cinematic pleasure. Jarman spent seven years preparing for the film. When the actual production began, he made it in only five weeks – all in one single warehouse at the East End of London.