Directed by Derek Jarman
UK 1986


  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 dramatised portrait of the controversial artist and a powerful meditation 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.


Theatrical Release: February 1986 (Berlin International Film Festival) 

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DVD Review: BFI - Region 2 - PAL

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Distribution BFI Video - Region 2 - PAL
Runtime 1:29:06 
Video 1.85:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 6.72 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.


Audio English (Dolby Digital 2.0) 
Subtitles English, Dutch, None

Release Information:
Studio: BFI Video

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1

Edition Details:

• 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 and others
• Gallery of storyboards, production sketches and Derek Jarman's notebooks
• 18-page illustrated booklet including introductory essay by Colin MacCabe and interview with costume designer Sandy Powell

DVD Release Date: January 29th, 2007

Keep Case
Chapters: 10




BFI have done an amazing job with this and the other 2 Jarman films-to-DVD released at this time (Wittgenstein and The Angelic Conversation). A complete and professional digital package worthy of Criterion or Masters of Cinema.

The DVD image is very strong - clean, sharp with no identifiable digital manipulations. I have found no weaknesses at all in my viewing. The image appears dark, but it is exactly as I suspect it was initially filmed. There are well appointed, optional, subtitles and the 2.0 channel audio is clear and defined.

Cinematographer Gabriel Beristain gives a good commentary - his Spanish accent (Mexican) is not overly thick, but BFI give the option of subtitles for his dialogue as well (see sample below). He discusses how careful they were with filming as their budget was so constrained. There are some gaps but he generally he does an admirable job of relating details behind the scenes, even beyond his specialties of colors, texture and framing. On top of the commentary are 5 separate interviews (Nigel Terry, Tilda Swinton, 2 with Jarman etc.). There is a supplement section of Production design with 4 segments - Jarman's Notebook, Storyboards, Jarman in the Frame and Production Documentation. There is also a trailer and photo gallery. Finally there is an 18-page illustrated booklet including introductory essay by Colin MacCabe and interview with costume designer Sandy Powell.

This is one of the most complete DVD packages so far in 2007. A fabulous job by BFI - one that we strongly recommend to view this alluring and controversial film.    

Gary W. Tooze



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Distribution BFI Video - Region 2 - PAL


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