BFI 100Movies

BFI 100: 93 – Caravaggio (1986)

Here we continue, what will probably eventually become known as, the ill-fated journey of watching each of the British Film Institute’s 100 best films of the 20th Century. Starting at 100 and working my way to Orson Welles’ The Third Man at number 1. I’ll try to keep these blogs relatively spoiler free and I’ll consider them only a small record of moving through this series.

© Zeitgeist Films

Having previously been introduced to the paintings of Michelangelo da Caravaggio through R.E.M.’s Losing my Religion video and later through the excellent Simon Schama series, “The Power of Art”, his work has always been my favourite of the baroque and renaissance periods, so I was looking forward to number 93 – Caravaggio, the phenomenal Derek Jarman’s take on the artist’s life. Arguably the film is the most accessible of Jarman’s work but that doesn’t make it in any way mainstream. At times the film is challenging but at others it’s just beautiful. It features both Sean Bean and Tilda Swinton (in her first film role) but Nigel Terry is fascinating as Caravaggio, himself.

The most affecting theme of the film though is Jarman’s use of anachronism to mirror the artists own. Whereas Caravaggio would dress his biblical characters in contemporary clothing, Jarman chose to include such anachronisms as automobiles, sound of football coming from a television in a bar, electric lights and, as you can see in the photo above, in the witty allusion to David’s The Death of Marat, he includes a typewriter.

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