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Caravaggio [1986] [DVD]

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Product details

  • Actors: Nigel Terry, Sean Bean, Tilda Swinton, Mark Tildesley, Michael Gough
  • Directors: Derek Jarman
  • Format: PAL, Anamorphic, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English
  • Subtitles For The Hearing Impaired: English
  • Region: Region 2 (This DVD may not be viewable outside Europe. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 16:9 - 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Classification: 18
  • Studio: Bfi
  • DVD Release Date: 29 Jan 2007
  • Run Time: 89 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 19,952 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)


A film by Derek Jarman

Derek Jarman struggled for seven years to bring his portrait of the seventeenth-century Italian artist Michelangelo da Caravaggio to the screen. The result was well worth the wait, and was greeted with critical acclaim: a freely dramatized portrait of the controversial artist and a powerful mediation on sexuality, criminality and art - a new and refreshing take on the usual biopic.

The film centres on an imagined love-triangle between Caravaggio, his friend and model Ranuccio, and Ranuccio's low-life partner Lena. Conjuring some of the artist's most famous paintings through elaborate and beautifully photographed tableaux vivants, these works are woven into the fabric of the story, providing a starting point for its characters and narrative episodes.

Caravaggio features wonderful performances from Nigel Terry, Sean Bean, and, in her first role, Tilda Swinton, who was to become Jarman's muse and long-time collaborator. A visual treat, it was the first major film production for award-winning costume designer Sandy Powell, with luscious production design by Christopher Hobbs.

DVD extras

  • Specially commissioned interviews with Tilda Swinton, Nigel Terry, and production designer Christopher Hobbs
  • Feature commentary by cinematographer Gabriel Beristain
  • Filmed and audio interviews with Derek Jarman
  • Gallery of storyboards, production sketches, and Derek Jarman's notebooks
  • Fully illustrated booklet including introductory essay by Colin MacCabe and interview with costume designer Sandy Powell
UK | 1986 | colour | Optional hard-of-hearing subtitles | 89 minutes | Ratio 1.85:1 (16x9 anamorphic widescreen) | Region 2 DVD |

Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Room for a View VINE VOICE on 24 Jun 2008
Format: DVD
Beyond Caravagio's art there is very little evidence to support an in depth biographical study. What there is (principally a few police records) may or may not suggest a violent man prone to fits of jealous rage and violent behaviour. Jarman, however, provides a beautifully realised poetical interpretation, charged with a latent sexuality, that conveys a complex blend of urban poverty and aristocratic patronage. Jarman succeeds in placing a 'modern day' Caravaggio amongst his baroque compositions, recognising the artists's immense talent for the human form, light and shadow and use of colour. The acting is awesome and the sets show how a highly imaginative crew can pull together the essence of a period with grace and historical insight. Amazing.
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Format: DVD
Quite simply unlike any other biographical film you will ever see, Derek Jarman's acclaimed production of Caravaggio (1986) is a lovingly constructed, highly personal cross-reference of tormented sixteenth century genius, twentieth century iconography and a somewhat satire on the shallowness of the burgeoning eighties' art scene of which Jarman was very much part of. Exploring Caravaggio's life through his work, the film distinctively merges fact, fiction, legend and imagination in a bold and confident approach that will probably leave serious art enthusiasts and casual viewers outraged by the complete disregard for accurate, historical storytelling.

Shot with a typically avant-garde approach, director/writer Jarman doesn't so much fashion a biography of the artist, but rather, creates a personal reflection of the man using intimate characteristics that appeal to his filmmaking sensibilities. This makes Caravaggio more of an interpretation of the filmmaker than the artist himself; somewhat self-indulgently focusing on Caravaggio's struggle with bisexuality, perfectionism and wanton obsession; perhaps even glossing over the more intricate workings of the character, for instance, his own passion for art and his battles with the various religious and creative constraints of the period.

It's a shame some of these ideas aren't further elaborated upon, because, at its heart, Caravaggio is really an exceptional film. As I commented earlier, it's perhaps unlike any other film you will ever see; an iconoclastic vision with a cinematic imagination that knows no bounds. Caravaggio is a film in which a 16th century setting gives way to the various anachronisms of passing trains, tuxedoes, motorbikes, typewriters and chic nightclub settings.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By S. Amitay on 9 Jan 2011
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
This movie is hard to get into, and it jumps around quite a lot through the artist's life. Throughout the movie there are some amazing set pieces that recreate the artist's famous paintings in minute detail, and these alone make the movie worth watching if you like Caravaggio's work. Created on extremely low budget, it's amazing what imagination and fine acting can do.
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39 of 44 people found the following review helpful By on 18 Sep 2000
Format: VHS Tape
every shot in this beautiful film is like one of caravaggio's paintings - a true masterpiece of cinematography. jarman shows his story telling skills off to the full, sharing his obvious fondness for the artist and his works to the extent that you feel compelled to go away and see more of his paintings for yourself after having watched this. dexter fletcher plays the young and precocious caravaggio as only one so young and precocious could, and sean bean is wonderfully spiteful and sexy as his muse. this is a film for the faint hearted art film fan - as jarman fills the film with his trademark humour eccentricities to keep you on your toes.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Jacques COULARDEAU on 2 July 2014
Format: DVD
This film deals with a painter of great fame from the end of the Renaissance. It is the story of a man of course but also of his assistant. He literally bought a mute boy out of his misery when he was a small child and took him to his studio to work for him, to grind his colors and prepare his paints. He will of course use the child as a model for some exuberant bacchic scenes overloaded with fruits of all sorts. The mute boy becomes the friend of the painter and little by little this friendship must have become love, real love, the mental and sentimental passion.

On the other hand the artist is attracted by male bodies mostly but in the strength they demonstrate when they are fighting. So he is looking for violence, muscular tension, aggressiveness in males, one body against another, and some compositions of several men demonstrating their power in some scenes implying violence and cruelty. This search for violent brutality excludes love. It is pure desire and one of these men will have a tragic ending because he understood this desire required him to love the artist back and thus to do what he thought the artist wanted him to do. His mistake, especially since it was killing a pregnant woman.

The only one who has the right (the artists granted him that right), the duty (the artists expected him to do what's concerned here), the obligation even to love him back, is the young assistant because that assistant was bought and is the artist's possession, the only person the artist has the duty and the obligation to take care of as if he were his own child. And in this case it is real love from the artist to the assistant and from the assistant to the artist, to and fro and back all the time.
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