Five by Jarman
Derek Jarman was a genius whose life ended too soon. He was always an original filmmaker with original ideas. Now thanks to Zeitgeist Films we have five Jarman films in a boxed ser entitled “Glitterbox”. If you love gay cinema, here is a set that belongs in your movie library and these five films give a wonderful introduction to Derek Jarman. Because I am going to review these films separately I am only going to say a little about each movie.
“Wittgenstein” shows in an early Jarman film the queer militancy that characterized the director. Ludwig Wittgenstein was an Austrian-born and British educated. He is considered to be a leading philosopher and Jarman chronicles his life from regal childhood to his position as a professor at Cambridge where he was burdened with guilt because he was homosexual. The characters wear elaborate costumes and they are set against a pitch black background. This is so we will concentrate on the very witty dialog.
“Caravaggio” pays tribute to a controversial painter who was torn between his lover and his mistress. This is a very homoerotic film which is centered on the process of creating.
“The Angelic Conversation” is a film in which Dame Judy Dench reads twelve Shakespearean sonnets which focuses on the director, Jarman himself, in a mission to discover the meaning of life.
“Blue” was made by Jarman after he had been battling AIDS for six years. His health and eyesight had been deteriorating and he brought the viewer into a startling experimental film. The film is a blue screen throughout and Tilda Swinson and Nigel Terry read from Jarman’s journals, talk about his medical problems and his reflections on life and art. This is the film that closed Jarman’s career and it shows no self-pity and neither does it sermonize.
Finally there is “Glitterbug”, a collection of Jarman’s video diaries which are set to the music of Brian Eno. The films begin in 1970 and follow the life of the filmmaker and Jarman managed to finish this film before his death in 1984.
The set also includes interviews with Tilda Swinson and Nigel Terry and Christopher Hobbs, production designer. There is also a rare video with Jarman himself, behind the scene footage. For any gay cinema buff, this is a set of films that must be seen to help us understand how far we have come.