Though known for working with directors that specialize in action films and thrillers, Sean Bean has also done his share of work seen in art house cinemas. He seems to enjoy working with directors with a singular vision. Let’s look at one director and one film as an example- Derek Jarman’s, “Caravaggio".
Derek Jarman’s film uses the barest outlines of the real life of artist Michelangelo Merisi Caravaggio (1573 - 1610) as a frame for his most mainstream film. Jarman is making a larger statement about the life of the artist in society.
Audiences that have only seen Sean Bean in Hollywood movies may be surprised that as Ranuccio, he plays the lover of both Caravaggio (Nigel Terry) and his model, Lena (Tilda Swinton). For Sean Bean this was his first theatrical film and he thrives with Jarman’s semi-improvisational style, and community of actors, artists, amateurs, and crew committed to one man’s vision. The powerful impact of the young and smoldering Sean Bean when Caravaggio first sees him is unforgettable.
Film critics, both when the film was released in 1986, and recently with the release of the DVD, agree on Bean’s performance:
In Jarman's Caravaggio, actor Terry discovers Ranuccio Tommasoni (played by Sean Bean with beefy, rugged, dangerous charm) at a prizefight. Newsweek, 1986.
Bean runs away with the film, a smoldering presence that oozes sexuality and pops off the screen (I loved the final sequence with Carvaggio and Ranuccio) dvd.talk.com, 2008
In Caravaggio, a young Sean Bean demonstrated not only considerable acting talent, but also a charismatic screen presence working with experimental director Derek Jarman. They were to work again in another controversial Jarman film, War Requiem.