Italy 1610. Michelangelo Merisi (Riccardo Scarmarcio), better known as Caravaggio, ignores Catholic Church rulings that dictate how religious subjects are to be represented. Having been informed that he transfigures prostitutes, thieves and vagabonds into saints and Madonnas in his work, Pope Paul V orders the Vatican secret service to investigate, to decide whether to grant the clemency for which Caravaggio has petitioned since being sentenced to death for the killing of a rival in love, which was probably in self-defence.
The investigator (Louis Garrel) – known as The Shadow – begins the inquiry that will lead him to discover the conflicting vices and virtues of the artist whose life – or death – lies in his hands.
The film is loosely based on the life of Caravaggio, who lived from 1571 to his death in 1610 and became the most famous painter in Italy of the time. He was held in rock star status by the people around him, but he led a tumultuous life and was notorious for brawling, a fact portrayed in the film.
Caravaggio”s Shadow is a dark movie, both in filming and story line. It portrays 1600’s Italy as it was, filthy and depraved. The ordinary people Caravaggio associated in lived in squalor, often leading a life the church would not approve of. And this is why Caravaggio is under investigation.
The film follows the investigators inquiry into the life of Caravaggio and film jumps from “current” time to the time of the story being told by witnesses, but it is easy to follow on screen.
For someone who didn’t know of Caravaggio, I found the film enlightening and had me reading up on the painter later. While the subject matter is serious, viewing the film is also a great exhilarating adventure movie.
Watching this movie is an excellent way to spend a couple of hours. It is both formative and entertaining.
Movie Review By Geoff Jenke
Caravaggio’s Shadow at Palace Nova Cinema’s from 26 October.