Love Is the Devil: Study for a Portrait of Francis Bacon

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Love Is the Devil:
Study for a Portrait of Francis Bacon
DVD Cover
Directed byJohn Maybury
Written byJohn Maybury
Produced byTakashi Asai & BBC
Music byRyuichi Sakamoto
BBC Films
British Film Institute
Arts Council of England
Premiere Heure
Partners in Crime
Distributed byArtificial Eye[1]
Release date
  • 1998 (1998)
CountryUnited Kingdom

Love Is the Devil: Study for a Portrait of Francis Bacon is a 1998 film produced by The British Film Institute and BBC Film. It was written and directed by John Maybury and stars Derek Jacobi, Daniel Craig and Tilda Swinton. A fictional biography of painter Francis Bacon (Jacobi), it concentrates on his strained relationship with George Dyer (Craig), a small-time thief. The film draws heavily on the authorised biography of Bacon, The Gilded Gutter Life of Francis Bacon by Daniel Farson, and is dedicated to him.

It won three awards at the Edinburgh International Film Festival: Best New British Feature (director John Maybury) and two Best British Performance awards, one for Jacobi and the other for future James Bond actor Craig. The film was also screened in the Un Certain Regard section at the 1998 Cannes Film Festival.[2] Craig's performance was well received by critics, acknowledging it as his breakthrough role.[3]


When George Dyer, who is still a stranger to Francis Bacon, is caught by Bacon breaking and entering into Bacon's apartment studio, he seems to be in a bad position if Bacon decides to call for the police. Instead, Bacon looks him over and baldly propositions him after looking over his physique and his good looks. Bacon states that if the would-be criminal would be willing to spend the night with him in bed then he can take anything he wants from the apartment in the morning. Dyer considers his situation and decides to take Bacon up on his proposition and the two sleep together. The evening starts an enduring relationship between the two men as Bacon starts to introduce Dyer to his friends and to his art world in which he is already an established artist.

Bacon introduces Dyer to the pub scene which he is comfortable being seen in and comfortable being himself. Dyer starts to take an interest in Bacon's art and the talk about the primitive and brutal aspects of Bacon's art. While the two of them start to live together, Bacon sees himself as a free agent in an open relationship and occasionally meets other LGBT companions in local clubs or while gambling, whom he also beds with. When Dyer learns of these flings he takes it badly, and at one point even stashes some drugs in Bacon's apartment while calling the police to report it. Bacon is arrested, at first as a formality. Dyer apparently has taken out his anger and jealousy out on Bacon.

Later, Bacon decides to take Dyer with him on a trip to New York during which time Dyer stages a suicide attempt by threatening to jump off the hotel's rooftop where they are staying. Bacon talks him down, and after giving him another 'gift' check for 20,000 dollars decides that he will also offer to take Dyer to Paris on another one of Bacon's international trips. Dyer's drinking problems become more pronounced. He complains about Bacon to Bacon's friends and seems to have repeated incidents with the police. Meanwhile, Bacon tries to keep his creative art projects moving forward while he struggles with issues of his self-identity and growing fame by also indulging in a drug habit and taking pleasure in alcohol with his friends. Dyer begins to become something of a nuisance, possibly beyond Bacon's ability to tolerate him much longer.

After some debate, they decide they will go to Paris together. Dyer's problems with drink and drugs reach the level of his suffering from delirium tremens and he attempts suicide by overdosing on drugs. Bacon's success in Paris does not particularly help them in their relationship. Dyer succumbs to the drugs and Bacon is shown alone in his Paris apartment contemplating what it was like when Dyer was still alive and with him.



Love Is the Devil was released theatrically by Artificial Eye on 18 September 1998 in the UK and grossed £259,421 ($0.4 million).[4] It was released in the United States on 7 October 1998 and grossed $354,004,[5] for a worldwide total in excess of $0.8 million.

The film was first broadcast on BBC Two on 26 March 2000.[6]


  1. ^ "Love is the Devil (1998)". BBFC. Retrieved 26 February 2023.
  2. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Love Is the Devil". Retrieved 3 October 2009.
  3. ^ "The 10 Best Daniel Craig Movie Performances". 19 January 2016.
  4. ^ "British biz at the box office". Variety. 14 December 1998. p. 72.
  5. ^ Love Is the Devil: Study for a Portrait of Francis Bacon at Box Office Mojo
  6. ^ "BBC Programme Index". 26 March 2000. Retrieved 13 January 2023.

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