Even if the life of artist Michelangelo Merisi aka Caravaggio was only half as eventful as that depicted in the movie Caravaggio’s Shadow then it was most colourful.
And it seems much of that colour is reflected in his paintings.
As the movie reveals many of the prostitutes, thieves and vagabonds Caravaggio associated with were the models for many of his most famous paintings.
The film’s writer and director Michele Placido tells of the adventures of Caravaggio (Riccardo Scamarcio) through a fictional character known as The Shadow (Louis Garrel).
The Shadow has been commissioned by Pope Paul V (Maurizio Donadoni) who has to decide whether to grant a pardon Caravaggio has requested after being sentenced to death for killing one of his rivals Ranuccio (Brenno Placido).
It’s through The Shadow’s investigation we learn more of Caravaggio’s supposed life including his voracious sexual appetite and his rebellious nature especially towards stringent Church rules governing the representation of sacred art.
We also learn more about the women in his life including Costanza Colonna (Isabelle Huppert), a Roman noblewoman who affectionately protected and helped the artist throughout her life.
Then there was Lena (Micaela Ramazzotti), a prostitute of great beauty whom Caravaggio used as a model for the Virgin Mary thus scandalising a large section of the Catholic Church.
Anna Bianchini (Lolita Chammah) was the daughter of a prostitute initiated into the same profession at a young age. She was Caravaggio’s model for his masterpiece Death of the Virgin.
As well as exploring his love life, Caravaggio’s Shadow also explores his many conflicts with the church, other painters and those he thought had done wrong to either himself or those he loved.
We discover his temper often led to many of his problems including several stints in jail.
The movie also highlights the great contradictions of the time – a society of great wealth, especially held by those associated with the Catholic Church and the nobility and those living on the street in extreme poverty.
It was also an extremely violent time as shown by some of the actions of Caravaggio, those he offended and The Shadow.
How much of Caravaggio’s Shadow is true will never be known, however experts agree Placido and his team have expertly brought to the big screen Caravaggio’s groundbreaking technique of light and darkness and the feel of the time. It’s no surprise to discover the film has won awards for cinematography, production and costume design.
Those who see the film and know little about Caravaggio’s life are also likely to want to learn more about the arrogant, tempestuous, rebellious and brilliant painter depicted in Caravaggio’s Shadow.
*Photo credit: Luisa Carcavale.
Caravaggio’s Shadow opens in cinemas on October 26.
- melbourne reviews, movie
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