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dir. Derek Jarman / United Kingdom 1986 / 93’
subtitles: Polish only


Nigel Terry, Tilda Swinton, Michael Gough, Sean Bean


Berlin IFF 1986 – Silver Berlin Bear, C.I.D.A.L.C. Award; Istanbul IFF 1987 – Special Jury Prize

Film description

The dying Caravaggio thinks back to his youth. As a capable boy, the cardinal takes him under his wing, appreciating him not only for his talent but also for his beauty. Years later, he is still painting religious images, using vagrants for models. When he is not found in front of a canvas, Caravaggio is indulging in debauchery in suspicious back alleys. During one of these outings, he meets the beautiful adventurer Ranuccio and his mistress, Lena. He gets involved in an affair with both of them. While this is Derek Jarman’s most traditional film, Caravaggio is not just a collection of excerpts of the main events in the life of the Baroque painter. The director carefully reflects the atmosphere of his paintings: with silhouettes on dark backgrounds, he uses an expressive chiaroscuro and emphasizes the sensuality of the male body. At the same time, he dismantles the historical staffage by using modern props, like telephones, emphasizing, instead of historical facts, a reflection on the condition of the artist. Caravaggio features Tilda Swinton in her first role – her performance as Lena led to other similar roles throughout her acting career.

Mariusz Mikliński

Information about director

Derek Jarman

An icon of queer cinema and counterculture, Derek Jarman is both an artist and an activist. He made his full-length debut in 1976 with Sebastiane, a gay interpretation of the legend of a saint. He looked for homosexual subjects in literature (Shakespeare’s The Angelic Conversation), in the lives of historical figures (Edward II), and in representatives of the world of culture (Wittgenstein). For Jarman, the combination of queer and punk esthetics with an anarchical message was an element of his opposition to conservative reality. He died of AIDS in 1994.  

Selected filmography

1976 Sebastian / Sebastiane

1979 Burza / The Tempest

1986 Anielskie rozmowy / The Angelic Conversation

1993 Wittgenstein

1993 Blue

Cast & Crew

director: Derek Jarman
screenplay: Derek Jarman, Suso Cecchi d’Amico, Nicholas Ward Jackson
cinematography: Gabriel Beristain
editing: George Akers
music: Simon Fisher-Turner
cast: Nigel Terry, Tilda Swinton, Michael Gough, Sean Bean
producer: Sarah Radclyffe, Nicholas Ward Jackson, Colin MacCabe
production: British Film Institute (BFI)
sales: Basilisk Communications Ltd
awards: Berlin IFF 1986 – Silver Berlin Bear, C.I.D.A.L.C. Award; Istanbul IFF 1987 – Special Jury Prize
language: English
colouration: colour
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