A daring reinterpretation of the life of the Italian painter, Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, Jarman presents us with an oneiric mosaic that includes stellar performances and carefully reconstructed tableaux of the painter’s pioneering Baroque works. Winning the Silver Bear at the 1986 Berlin International Film Festival, it features Tilda Swinton in her debut film performance.
Played by Nigel Terry with mesmerising volatility, Caravaggio’s tumultuous life is recounted through Jarman’s singular humanity. Beginning with the titular painter in his final hours, the film plays out in fragmented flashbacks centring on a love triangle between Caravaggio and two of his models played by Sean Bean and Swinton.
Caravaggio took seven years to make and is marked by Jarman’s disillusionment with the funding bodies and institutes that he had to negotiate with to receive funding. Despite this, it has gone on to become one of Jarman’s signature works.
This feature is paired with three of Jarman’s music videos, each showing his penchant for “renaissance”-style imagery, striking set design and temporal experimentation. Broken English: Three Songs by Marianne Faithfull (1979) 12 mins – Unrated 15+ interprets key songs from Faithfull’s classic album through dreamlike interludes and bizarre found footage-style Super 8 images. Pet Shop Boys: It’s A Sin (1987) 5 mins – Unrated 15+ links persecution past and present through an LGBTQ+ anthem. The Lords Of The New Church: Dance With Me (1983) 3 mins – Unrated 15+ finds Jarman’s most nightmarish stylistic tendencies a perfect fit for the work of the gothic rock supergroup.
– Guillermo Ignacio, Melbourne Cinémathèque committee member