Derek Jarman struggled for seven years to bring his portrait of the great Renaissance painter Michelangelo Caravaggio to the screen, producing a critically acclaimed masterwork and powerful meditation on sexuality, criminality and art.
Told in flashback as the artist (Nigel Terry – Troy) lies dying in poverty, the film brilliantly recreates the look and colour of Caravaggio’s original paintings while exploring the homoerotic subtext of his work. Speculating on the artist’s relationship with his model Ranuccio (Sean Bean – Lord of the Rings), the film explores a vicious love triangle also involving the model’s wife, played brilliantly by Tilda Swinton (Orlando, Michael Clayton) Jarman’s muse and collaborator throughout several films, this was Swinton’s first feature role. With luscious production design it was the first major film production for award-winning costume designer Sandy Powell (The Aviator, Skakespeare in Love) the dazzling Caravaggio is arguably the most accessible of Jarman’s films.
Derek Jarman (January 31, 1942- February 19, 1994), British film director, artist, and writer.
Jarman’s first films were experimental super 8mm shorts, a form he never entirely abandoned, and later developed further (in his films Imagining October (1984), The Angelic Conversation (1985), The Last Of England (1987) and The Garden (1990)) as a parallel to his narrative work.
Jarman made his debut in “overground” narrative filmmaking with the groundbreaking Sebastiane (1976), arguably the first British film to feature positive images of gay sexuality, and the first (and to date, only) film entirely in Latin. He follwed this with the film many regard as his first masterpiece, Jubilee (shot 1977, released 1978), in which Queen Elizabeth I of England is transported forward in time to a desolate and brutal wasteland ruled by her twentieth century namesake. Jubilee was arguably the first UK punk movie, and amongst its cast featured punk groups and figures such as Wayne County… read more
Like his Tempest, a work heavy on ambience, textures - sometimes quite literally, with respects to the figure at hand - rooted in history, hundreds years ago. Emerging as a hypnotic canvas and narrative - enhanced by its non-linear structure - boasting some blazingly beautiful, poetic writing, other times being a quiet, observant elegy. Regrettably, it loses some mystique as certain events - more like banalities, dare I say - transpire, but remains a rather entrancing work.