FIVE MEN AND A CARAVAGGIO
This film is inspired by Walter Benjamin's essay "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction".
A Chinese artisan, in Dafen village near Shenzhen, reproduces by hand Caravaggio's "John in the Wilderness" aka Saint John the Baptist. His studio is his home, and his family all participate in varying ways in the cottage industry of reproducing western art for western consumers.
In London, a Swiss Italian poet, unveils the Chinese painter's copy, which he has received as a 40th birthday gift. The poet sees a youthful image of himself in the work, but he fears the copy does not capture the real essence of the original. His philosopher friend, formerly an amateur painter, says he can repaint the copy. The film then follows the poet, the philosopher—repainting the copy—and two other friends, an Eritrean writer, who spurns all religion but yearns for artistic redemption, and a French photographer, whose nude wilderness self-portraits echo the Caravaggio masterpiece. Each friend has some link to the painting and its theme of wilderness and wandering.
The events in London are paralleled with a slice of life depiction of the Chinese artisan's family in Shenzhen, reproducing John in the Wilderness and dreaming of a better life.
UK – 2018, 72mins
Spoken English and Chinese
DCP Colour - 16:9 - Stereo
Chen Ming (the Painter)
Vanni Bianconi (the Poet)
Simon de Reyer (the Photographer)
Stephen Barker (the Philosopher)
Saleh Addonia (the Writer)
Directed & produced by Xiaolu Guo
Edited by Lizi Hesling
Camera by Xiaolu Guo
Sound mix by Philippe Ciompi
© Xiaolu Guo Productions