2 January 2011 | Rodrigo_Amaro
An Artistic Portrait of an Artist by another Artist
Everything is divided in two concepts: rule and transgression. That it's not a bad thing but for most people it's difficult to accept them, to comprehend them and to make both things interesting. Most of the time we tend to only follow the rules and forget about transgression or even condemn it.
Caravaggio was a transgressionist in terms of art with his painting evoking religious themes using as models simple people, peasants, prostitutes, fishers, creating powerful masterpieces; and a transgressionist with his dangerous lifestyle, sleeping with men and women, getting involved in fights, in one of these fights he killed a man, reason why he ran away to other countries, and then dying at the age of 38. Then we have a filmmaker, an true artist named Derek Jarman who knows how to portray art on film, breaking conventions, trying to do something new and succeeding at it.
To name one of his most interesting films his last "Blue" was a blue screen with voice overs by actors and his own voice telling about his life, his struggle while dying of AIDS, and he manages to be poetic, real about his emotions, and throughout almost 2 hours of one simple blue screen he never makes us bored. Who could be a better director for a project about the life of Caravaggio than a transgressionist like Jarman himself?
The movie "Caravaggio" is wonderful because it combines many forms of art into one film, capturing the nuances of Caravaggio's colors and paintings translated into the film art. It has poetry, paintings, music of the period of the story, sometimes jazz music. All that in the middle of the story of one of the greatest artists of all time.
This is not a usual biopic telling about the artist's life and death in a chronological order, trying to do everything make sense. This is a very transgressional work very similar to "Marie Antoniette" by Sofia Coppola, so it might shock and disappoint those who seek for a conventional story truthful to its period. And just like Coppola's film "Caravaggio" takes an bold artistic license to create its moments. Jarman introduces to the narrative set in the 16th and 17th century, objects like a radio, a motorcycle, a calculator machine among others; sometimes this artistic license works (e.g. the scene where Jonathan Hyde playing a art critic types his review on his typewriter, a notion that we must have about how critics worked that time making a comparison with today's critics, but it would be strange see him writing with a feather, even though it would be a real portrayal).
The movie begins with Caravaggio (played by Nigel Terry) in his deathbed, delusioning and remembering facts of his passionate and impetuous life; his involvement with Lena (Tilda Swinton) and Ranuccio (Sean Bean); memories of childhood (played by Dexter Fletcher); and of course the way he worked with his paintings, admired by everybody in his time.
All of this might seem misguided, some things appear to don't have a meaning but they have. I was expecting a movie more difficult to follow but instead I saw a truly artistic film, not pretentious whatsoever, that knows how to bring Caravaggio's works into life, with an incredible and fascinating mise-èn-scene, in a bright red that jumps on the screen with beauty. Very impressive.
It's an unique and interesting experience. For those who enjoy more conventional and structured biopics try to watch this film without being too much judgemental, you'll learn great things about the Baroque period because it is a great lesson about the period. For those who like new film experimentations or want to watch a Jarman's film here's the invitation. 10/10