In 1609 in Rome, Pope Paul V appointed an inquisitor to investigate the famous painter Michelangelo Merisi, known as Caravaggio, who was accused of murder and blasphemy.
“I paint what I see. » All his life, Michelangelo Merisi, says Caravaggio, will repeat this mantra to his detractors. A genius of baroque painting, the artist was also reviled by religious power in his time. He was criticized for marrying the profane and the sacred, human misery and the divine. Accused of murder and condemned to beheaded (the painter was also a bad boy), Caravaggio fled Rome to take refuge in Naples, under the protection of a powerful and noble family, before dying in mysterious circumstances, at 38 years.
Italian actor Michele Placido put his directorial hat back on to tell Caravaggio’s fascinating and decadent story. Brilliantly, the filmmaker breathes a breath of modernity into this historical drama. Even if its staging remains quite classic, the acting, photography, costumes and artistic direction of Caravaggio are impeccable.
From the first seconds, the viewer is plunged into the Roman underworld, in an atmosphere that is both Dantesque and carnivalesque. Between extreme wealth and poverty, we are immersed in the unique atmosphere of the fascinating and terrible era of the Roman Inquisition. A decor of light and shadow which of course recalls the paintings of the master through whom the scandal occurs.
Attracted by street people, very sensitive to human misery, Caravaggio painted criminals, beggars and prostitutes in paintings with biblical references. Sacrilege! The artist, very religious, wants to bring the divine closer to man, paradise and the underworld… A doctrine that was not very popular at the turn of the 1600s.
The film stars the excellent Riccardo Scamarcio in the title role, who gives Caravaggio a charismatic rock star look. Louis Garrel and Isabelle Huppert give him the answer in Italian, the first in the role of the papal inquisitor responsible for investigating the cursed painter; the second, in the shoes of the Marquise Colonna, whose powerful family will protect Caravaggio from his enemies and his troubles.
Caravaggio is a work that also reminds us of the danger of censorship. Yesterday as today, it can hinder the path of artists who move away from right-thinking and dogmas. To represent unvarnished reality. Eyes wide open.