In his film “Caravaggio”, Jarmen manipulates with time. All of the films characters – the cardinals, the queen, the court, even Caravaggio himself – are visually, in terms of dress, precisely portrayed for the period. But their environment, and the objects that they interact with, are mostly very contemporary. For example, the music used is not renaissance. There is a scene where a member of court writes a complaint about Caravaggio's paintings being obscene – on a typewriter. When one of Caravaggio's paintings is unveiled, an opening is held, much as today – with wine and a celebratory air. A catalog with shiny pages is published. Accounts are computed on an electronic calculator. Relaying all this, it could be seen as an exercise in pomposity or postmodern games. But these elements in Jarman's film stylistically fit – he has a balanced way of weaving them in. Such elements could also very well destroy a film. By manipulating with the artifacts of the time, it seems that the film has acquainted us with Caravaggio and his painting without the restraints of a certain time-period. And without didactic methods, such as uplifting music.
The film is very theatrical, since Jarman uses very little outside scenes and mostly filmed in pavilions. That is his characteristic style. The film also has little dialog. But the story behind the scenes is very poetic – removed, in a sense, from conversation. In its own way, the text reiterates the expressiveness of the colors in Caravaggio's paintings. Creating parallels in terms of text and visuals with Peter Greenway's film “Nightwatching” (2007), which we will discuss later, one could say that the films' main characters speak as confusingly as they look.
Text by Anna Iltnere, based on an interview with Viktors Freibergs