By Amanda Murthy
Provocative, unsettling, creative yet controversial, Luna Palace Cinemas and Sharmill films presents a spectacular and rip-roaring tale, full of action, anguish and blood, as it pieces together the accurate historical reconstruction of Caravaggio’s life and artistic career.
The documentary Caravaggio the Soul and the Blood dives deep into the contributions and scandals of the Italian Baroque painter throughout his journey in Rome, Naples, Malta, and Sicily between the early 1590s to 1610.
Originally named after a Saint, Michelangelo Merisi changed his name to Caravaggio in honour of the town he hailed from.
Using the illusion of light and shadow, contrasts and contradictions, erudition and intemperance, much of Caravaggio’s real life battles were represented in his images.
Throughout his career, Caravaggio was given many prestigious commissions for religious works revolving around the themes of decapitations, death, captivities.
However, the finished product never failed to reflect on an uglier side of things, leaving his employers to appreciate his dramatised intensity but reject the overboard inappropriateness to the religious references.
Showcasing 40 artworks from the maestro, the one and a half hour film is narrated by a series of professionals, including Claudio Strinati, the most famous Caravaggio expert, Professor Mina Gregori, the President of the Foundation of Art History Roberto Longhi, and Dr Rossella Vodret, the curator of “Inside Caravaggio” at Milan’s Palazzo Reale- all who lend an array different perspectives to the artists timeline.
Some his greatest works that were shown in the film were executed in typical rebellious fashion. From David with the Head of Goliath – a theatrical depiction of David reacting to his victory with compassion, rather than satisfaction, to the Death of the Virgin – a reclined image of a lifeless woman, with her arm hanging and puffed up body, completely ignoring the glorious ascension which Catholics believe, and the Beheading of St John the Baptist – which reveals a unique circumstance, displaying the head of St John still intact, while the executioner takes his last stab to end the Saint’s life.
But it was a Basket of Fruit painting filled with summer fruits, allowed Caravaggio to first mould his mark on the scene. The fruits displayed appeared to be worm-eaten, with blotches of fungal spots. Scholars say the meaning behind the masterpiece appears to revolve about the fading beauty, and the natural decaying of all things, highlighting that the basket of fruit as a metaphor of the Church. The painting now hangs at the Ambrosian Library in Milan.
Caravaggio’s personality was bold, different and cynical much like his real life.
The film reveals that Caravaggio lived a tumultuous life. By the age of 35, he had already killed a man, notoriously brawled constantly, rowed with patrons and fled the justice system.
Predominantly, most of his models were real-life prostitutes – an arrangement that sparked much dissatisfaction and bad criticism from the world.
Because of his audacious behaviour, and relentless point to show the darker side of humanity in his work – often a reflection of his own life, Caravaggio had to fight harder to achieve success. It is interesting to discover that although he faced many downfalls in his personal life, the painter was gradually gaining more professional success as time went by.
Viewers will also appreciate the stunning photographic visual scenes displayed, accompanied by the voice of Caravaggio himself, speaking of his works and experiences.
The documentary ends abruptly with the story of his tragic death, leaving the viewer to digest all they have just witnessed.
Not for the faint of heart, this Caravaggio the Soul and the Blood demonstrates the life-story of an ordinary man who achieved extraordinary circumstances while attempting to flee his inner-demons.
Caravaggio was an emotionally wounded man who surrounded himself with the poorest of sinners – and at the end of his life, was buried amongst them, in an unmarked grave.
This film is rated E – exhibition for education, suitable for all ages. Caravaggio: The Soul and The Blood is in cinemas from 19 May.