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Biofic of an artist,
This review is from: Caravaggio (Special Edition) (DVD)
That's biographical fiction - although Jarman started with a solid core of historical truth about this brilliant brawler, the film contains at least as much speculation and interpolation as actual fact.
Much of it works well. The film's stark contrasts of light and dark echo Caravaggio's own innovation in chiaroscuro. Numerous anachronisms appear as well, including cars, calculators, and modern clothing. Like the film's contrasts, these reiterate the anachronisms tha Caravaggio put into his paintings. Although jarring at first, these blends of era add to the movie's quirky charm.
Male homosexuality appears repeatedly in Jarman's career, so it's no surprise that Jarman makes the most of the allegations about Caravaggio's orientation. In fact, that offers a major motivation for some of the most dramatic events near the end of this movie - events that form around Tilda Swinton in her first movie role. This brings me to something I found odd in this movie (I mean odd even by this movie's standards): Nigel Terry plays his Caravaggio with an understatement that doesn't always match the magnitude of the events around him. Perhaps a poker face would have suited the dangerous circles in which Caravaggio travelled; perhaps Caravaggio was meant to express himself through his art.
The result shouldn't be taken as genuine history. Still, it creates an enjoyable drama in homage to this brilliant but eccentric and enigmatic painter.