Kino Video,

Paul Humfress
Derek Jarman

Leonardo Treviglio,
Barney James,
Neil Kennedy,
Richard Warwick, Ken Hicks, Janusz Romanov, Donald Dunham, Daevid Finbar, Steffano Massari, Robert Medley, Lindsay Kemp

Unrated, 85 minutes



Zeitgeist Video,

Derek Jarman

Nigel Terry, Sean Bean, Tilda Swinton, Spencer Leigh, Dexter Fletcher, Michael Gough, Nigel Davenport, Garry Cooper, Robbie Coltrane

Unrated, 93 minutes


Edward II

Image Entertainment,

Derek Jarman

Ken Butler,
Derek Jarman

Steven Waddington,
Andrew Tiernan,
Tilda Swinton,
Nigel Terry,
Kevin Collins, Jerome Flynn, John Lynch, Jody Graber

Unrated, 90 minutes

Three Films By
Derek Jarman
by Michael D. Klemm
Posted online, February, 2009

The late artist, Derek Jarman, is famed for his many provocative, controversial and confrontational contributions to modern queer cinema. Jarman enjoyed renown as a painter and as a set designer (he worked on Ken Russell's 1971 film The Devils) before turning to filmmaking. Jarman left behind a large body of work which, along with his art, his books and his films, also includes videos for The Smiths and The Pet Shop Boys. The experimental, personal, and sometimes shocking nature of his cinema was more important to the artist than mainstream success and the iconoclastic Jarman was a fierce critic of Margaret Thatcher's England, his name synonymous with rebellion. Always the champion of gay rights, the anger in his cinema grew more evident after he made public his diagnosis with AIDS in 1986. He succumbed to the disease in 1994, his last film being the somber and reflective Blue (1993).

Jarman's cinema broke a lot of taboos, one of them being unprecedented celebrations of gay sexuality. Nowhere is this more apparent than in his first feature film, co-directed with Paul Humfress, Sebastiane (1976). This retelling of the doomed saint's fate, re-imagined through a queer lens, is unlike anything ever screened in Sunday school.

Depictions of the martyrdom of St. Sebastian are the most homoerotic images in all of Christian art. St. Sebastian has often been called the first gay icon. He is usually painted in a pose of submission, hands tied behind his back, or over his head, to a pole or a tree, wearing nothing but a loin cloth. His body is pierced with symbolic penetrating arrows and his expression is rapturous as he seems to bask in the pleasures of his own martyrdom. He is always young and muscular and beautiful. This brings to mind gay comic Bob Smith's classic joke about all the gay Renaissance painters meeting at a party and one of them saying that he has a great idea: "Let's paint some pictures of hot naked men and sell them to churches. Wouldn't that be a hoot?"

There are so many ways to look at Derek Jarman's audacious first feature. It is a historical costume drama (that is, when the actors are wearing clothes), a meditation on faith and a celebration of the male physique with a major focus on the homoerotic horseplay between hypermasculine Roman soldiers. Parts of the film, the opening scene particulary, can also be enjoyed as camp... the banquet/orgy at the Emperor's palace - described by Jarman himself as "a cruel cocktail party where the glitterati met Oriental Rome" - is reminiscent of a similar setting in Fellini Satyricon (1969) with a touch of Kenneth Anger; everything about the scene is glorious over-the-top excess.

Sebastian (Leonardo Treviglio), a Captain of the Guard, is one of Emperor Diocletian's favorites. They greet at the banquet with a very sensual kiss on the mouth. When a Christian is killed as part of the evening's entertainment, Sebastian intervenes and the angry Emperor strips Sebastian of his rank and banishes him as a common soldier. Exiled from Rome, Sebastian practices pointless daily maneuvers with his fellow soldiers at a remote outpost under the ever-watchful eyes of Severus, their Captain. Severus (Barney James) lusts after Sebastian and, when his advances are rebuffed, he orders the young man's execution. Sebastian is tied to a post and shot with arrows to fulfill his iconic martyrdom. The film deviates from the established canon. In the traditional story, St. Sebastian was sentenced to death by archers at the Emperor's order (again, for displaying Christian sympathies) but he survived the ordeal and is said to have performed several miracles before Diocletian had him executed a second time, this time being beaten to death and his body thrown into a sewer.
It's difficult to pinpoint exactly what Jarman's aims were in making this film (Tony Peake, his biographer, reports Jarman's obsession with St. Sebastian's image during his time at art school) but, nevertheless, Sebastiane is notable for many reasons. It was the first feature to ever be filmed entirely in Latin, pre-dating Mel Gibson's torture-porn epic The Passion Of The Christ by almost 30 years. It was also the first homoerotic British film and it ushered in a new era, paving the way for later efforts like Ron Peck's 1978 Nighthawks. Gay audiences in 1976 were undoubtedly stunned by the daring images that saturated Jarman's screen. Given the time, being the first to so explicitly depict desire between men was surely one of the filmmakers' intentions.
Calling the movie "daring" is, of course, an understatement. Let me be clear that Sebastiane is not porn but I would be hard pressed to think of another feature film that contains as much male frontal nudity as this one. A sizable chunk of the film's running length features the eight muscular soldiers wearing little more than loincloths. They practice sword fighting, they wrestle, they bathe, they engage in all sorts of erotic horseplay. There is a long sensual interlude between two beautiful men named Anthony and Adrian, some of it in slow motion, that lasts for almost seven minutes. Their kisses, in tight close-up, are the sexiest I have ever seen in any movie.
Yet none of this seems gratuitous. The camaraderie between these men is very believable. Their scenes display a gritty realism that is light years ahead of those cheesy Sword and Sandal epics that proliferated in the late 50s and early 60s, not to mention the unintentional camp of Cecil B. DeMille's The Ten Commandments. Despite a low budget, Sebastiane is filmed with an eye towards the painterly image. The look of Sebastiane was greatly influenced by the works of another pioneering gay filmmaker, Pier Paolo Pasolini - particularly his The Gospel According To St. Matthew (1964) and Oedipus Rex (1967). Another influence has to be Federico Fellini's 1969 film of Petronius' Satyricon but with a major difference; Fellini's protagonists were meant to be symbolic of decadent ancient Rome whereas Jarman was after lyricism and beauty. (Fellini, on the other hand, once famously said that he had to cast American actors as the leads in his Satyricon because "there are no homosexuals in Italy.") The classical groupings of Sebastian and the archers during the film's finale are reminiscent of countless Renaissance paintings.
Jarman's Sebastian is an outsider in his regiment because of his status as a Christian. (The Religious Right should embrace the film for this reason but we know that isn't going to happen.) Christianity becomes a substitute for homosexuality; Max (Neil Kennedy), the most rugged and swaggeringly macho of the soldiers, harasses Sebastian for his religious beliefs and it would be easy to re-cast him in the role of a gay basher in a more contemporary film. Despite Max's yearnings for a good harlot when he returns to Rome, and his comment that Greeks are only good for a "quick one," homosexuality does not seem to be an issue with these men. Anthony and Adrian (Janusz Romanov and Ken Hicks) are gently teased for their affections towards each other yet their proclivities are seen as neither feminine nor as signs of weakness. The soldiers are obsessed with their penises. Max is fond of dancing around sporting a golden phallic codpiece; he will wear it proudly when he shoots his arrow at Sebastian.
The film is an odd hybrid of the St, Sebastian legend and Herman Melville's Billy Budd - with Sebastian as the angelic sailor. His superior, Severus, doubles as the sadistic Master at Arms, John Claggart, whose hatred for Budd was a mask for his forbidden desire. (Claire Denis's 1999 Beau Travail is in many ways almost the same film except that the evil officer and the homoerotic esprit de corps are transposed to the French Foreign Legion.) Severus is clearly aroused by Sebastian, as is apparent in a lengthy early interlude in which he watches from a distance as the young man bathes. When Sebastian throws down his arms and refuses to fight, Severus has him whipped - the first of several sado-masochistic scenes that break the otherwise idyllic air. Some of these scenes are a bit rough. When Severus' lust finally gets the best of him, he plants his boot on Sebastian's neck and shouts "Ask for it, you Christian whore!" It seems, however, that Sebastian enjoys - or at least accepts - his role as a submissive when he muses that "his punishments are like Christ's promise. He takes me in his arm and caresses my bleeding body. I want to be with him. I love him."
One might think, from these descriptions, that Sebastiane is a humorless film but this is not the case. A few paragraphs back, I referenced DeMille and Fellini. Jarman adds a very funny scene, rife with cinematic in-jokes, in which Max longs for the good old days when Christians were thrown to the lions, the Coliseum hosted the chariot races of "Cecilli Mille, the director from Silva Sacra" and "Philistini scoured all the brothels of Rome...looking for pretty boys for his production of Satyricon." The screenwriter who translated the script into Latin indulged in a few private jokes of his own - a subtitle that reads "Come on motherfucker" is accompanied by a Latin phrase that sounds like "Okay Oedipus." Jarman also throws in an amusing homage to Kenneth Anger's classic Fireworks (1947) when a phallic fertility dance at the Emperor's palace ends with a close-up of the lead dancer's painted face being splattered with white paste.
Sebastiane defies description, it just has to be experienced. If you are one of those guys who watched Beau Travail just for the scenery, you'll find much to enjoy in this one too. I'd like to make one last observation on the film's artistry. Fans of Brian Eno's music will be interested to know that he wrote the film's understated score. The music is effective but used sparingly; oftentimes there is only the sound of wind in the background. I offer this as a lesson to the many modern queer filmmakers who insist on using bad, and inappropriate, music and lame pop songs in their movies. Consider the simple beauty of silence as an aesthetic choice.

Jarman has both his admirers and his detractors. Sebastiane actually did surprisingly well in London art house theaters but it has always been at the center of controversy. Its 1982 airing on Britain's Channel 4 (that brave television station that would also give the world My Beautiful Launderette and the original Queer As Folk) sparked a nationwide outcry. His politics and his outspoken AIDS activism would contribute to a lifelong notoriety. Sebastiane might not be everyone's cup of tea, but it is essential viewing for any serious student of queer cinema.


Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1571-1610) was an Italian painter, widely recognized as the first great Baroque artist. Caravaggio's paintings are noted for his dramatic use of light and shadow (pre-dating Rembrandt by several decades), for his unprecedented realism, and for his controversial use of street urchins and prostitutes as models for religious subjects. He was a notorious street brawler and often fell afoul with the law; he even killed a man once. Art scholars debate the painter's sexuality but the homoerotism inherent in Caravaggio's male figures should be obvious even to anyone who doesn't view them through a lavender lens.
The revered artist's status as an outsider is, no doubt, one of the things that attracted Caravaggio as a cinematic subject to the idiosyncratic filmmaker. After making Sebastiane, Derek Jarman filmed Jubilee (1977), a popular, punk post-apocalyptic flick featuring a 1970s English wasteland visited by Queen Elizabeth II. (It is, to many, a cult classic.) A modernist and free adaptation of Shakespeare's The Tempest followed in 1979. For the next few years, Jarman dabbled in experimental shorts before returning to the feature format in 1985 with The Angelic Conversation. This poetic and meditative film mixed homoerotic imagery with a soundtrack consisting of Shakespeare's Sonnets read by none other than famed actress Judi Densch.
The long germinating Caravaggio bore fruit in 1986. Jarman's Caravaggio is a fictionalized portrait of the artist as a young rogue. Jarman has written that his portrait is "based on a reading of the paintings." This is not a traditional narrative, but a series of impressions; like an artist's sketchbook. The painter (Nigel Terry) lies on his deathbed in the film's framing story, tended by his mute servant, and his life is told through a series of feverish, and perhaps unreliable, flashbacks. One of the first shows him as an adolescent being rescued from a life of street painting and hustling by his lifelong patron, Cardinal Del Monte. His sporadic memories lead the viewer through a streams of disconnected sketches... the artist at work, drunken bar brawls, an awkward audience with the Pope.
A love triangle dominates his thoughts. This triad consists of himself, a feral streetfighter named Ranuccio (a very young Sean Bean) and his mistress, the prostitute Lena (Tilda Swinton in her first film appearance.) Caravaggio's sexual appetite is reserved for Ranuccio though Lena benefits from his attentions as well. Both will serve as models for his best known canvasses. To symbolize their complicated relationship, Jarman often photographs the trio in triangular compositions. Both Caravaggio and Ranuccio are violent men yet a strange bond grows between them. A shirtless brawl ends with Ranuccio deliberately cutting Caravaggio with a knife. The artist responds by rubbing the blood in his model's face and proclaiming him "blood brother." Later, when Caravaggio cuts Ranuccio's throat, the process is reversed.
The film's genesis lay in a collaboration between Jarman and an important art dealer named Nicholas Ward-Jackson. The arts patron wanted a gay filmmaker to realize his pet film project about Caravaggio and his dreams of working with Pasolini were dashed when the controversial director was brutally murdered by a hustler in 1975. Upon seeing Sebastiane, Ward-Jackson deemed Jarman to be a suitable replacement. It was important to both that the artist's sexuality and his notorious volatility find expression in the finished film. Jarman was once again intrigued by the idea of juxtaposing the sacred and the profane.
Jarman detested commercial filmmaking; he once said that he doesn't make movies, he makes moving pictures. If you're looking for a history lesson about the artist, you've come to the wrong film. Prior knowledge of the artist is almost a prerequisite and impatient viewers will probably find Caravaggio chaotic. Unlike Milos Forman's delightful Amadeus, Caravaggio is not blessed with a clever and witty script by the likes of playwright Peter Schafer. At the same time, it is also a far cry from a stuffy and schlocky Hollywood bio-pic like The Agony and the Ecstasy (with Charlton Heston as Michelangelo. Yikes!!!). Caravaggio's brilliance lies not in its words but in its imagery. The film's cinematography resembles a Caravaggio canvas.
This method might hold more interest to art students but the re-creations of Caravaggio's paintings are wondrous to behold - especially the recognizable tableaus of Ranuccio posing as John the Baptist and Lena as Mary Magdalene. (One of Jarman's contemporaries, director John Maybury, would take a similar approach in his very queer 1998 film about painter Francis Bacon, Love Is The Devil.) Art Director Christopher Hobbs did a magnificent job painting the full sized Caravaggio copies - both finished and in-progress. If this art lesson isn't your cup of tea, the erotic aspects of the art studio scenes can be enjoyed in their own right. How about Ranuccio posing almost naked with a sword? The artist handles him roughly as he positions the arm and the shoulder and then, from his easel, throws gold coins to his model - who suggestively inserts the coins into his mouth. Ranuccio takes the last coin directly from the artist's lips. Later, following the foreplay of their knife brawl, they kiss ferociously and Lena angrily accuses her man of being a "rent boy."
Did I just say that she calls him a "rent boy?" This brings us to Jarman's unique use of anachronism. Modern props share the stage with 17th century settings to uniquely comment on the art scene and politics of Jarman's day. This doesn't mean that Caravaggio is like one of those cheesy films where a Roman solider is wearing a wristwatch, or an oil tanker sails by on the horizon in a bad viking epic. I refer to a grand tradition that includes Orson Welles' famed 1930s modern dress Julius Caesar set in fascist Italy, and the real Caravaggio's own practice of painting religious figures in contemporary clothing. In Jarman's alternate universe, Caravaggio and his friends smoke cigarettes, Ranuccio owns a motorbike, a banker uses an electronic calculator, there are waiters wearing tuxedos in a restaurant. These jarring elements blur the present and the past.
The best example of this unconventional method (which also manages at the same time to reference and parody two well known iconic images) involves a snooty art critic. He writes a pompous and scathing review of Caravaggio's art on a typewriter while laying in a bathtub like the evil columnist Waldo Lydecker in the old 1944 film noir, Laura. Then he sinks down in the tub until the image resembles Jacques-Louis David's famous 1793 painting The Death of Marat. The double reference also makes explicit a link between the canvas and cinema. Jarman the artist is having a lot of visual fun in his film. He even begins it with a hand painting one coat of black paint after another across the screen, in opposite directions, behind the opening credits. In Hitchcock fashion, Jarman makes his cameo as a priest in the Pope's entourage.
I'll be honest, at times Caravaggio may get on the average viewer's nerves but it isn't all academic and the film is often quite funny. A party for the unveiling of a privately commissioned painting is the one of the film's highlights. Jarman's description of Sebastiane's "cruel cocktail party where the glitterati met Oriental Rome" is recalled again here. This gala, with jazz music in the background, in set in the catacombs. Everyone who is anybody in Rome is there, including the Pope. A daffy society lady, when introduced to Michelangelo Caravaggio, exclaims "Michelangelo! You're not related, are you?" His canvas, Profane Love, is unveiled to much applause. The art critic calls it ugly but loves the frame. Caravaggio and Ranuccio steal a kiss in the tombs. Lena, stunningly dressed, lands a big fish and sneaks away from the party with Cardinal Scipione, the Pope's nephew. In private, he pulls off his fake moustache ("The agonies of fashion," he moans), kisses her feet, and calls her "Madonna, Queen of Heaven."
The role of the church in Caravaggio is important. The widespread corruption of the period is well known. The critic, while panning Caravaggio's art, will refer to a "conspiracy between church and gutter." The Pope will say to Caravaggio, "I hear you're a bit of a rascal. One of the family" and then remarks that "Revolutionary gestures in art can be a great help to us. Keeps the quo in the status." Mirroring the hypocrisy of so many religious figures today, Cardinal Del Monte clearly desires Caravaggio and the artist's commission to paint Profane Love comes from a member of Del Monte's inner circle. Lena will be murdered after becoming pregnant with Cardinal Scipione's child, and Caravaggio uses her corpse as the central figure in his Death Of The Virgin.
While much of Caravaggio is fiction, much of it is suggested by historical facts. Caravaggio did, indeed, paint a well known prostitute as the Virgin Mary. The film's Ranuccio poses for the painting of John the Baptist that the historical Caravaggio carried with him, in exile, until his death. While there is no evidence for the film's central love triangle, in 1606 he killed a man named Ranuccio Tomassoni during a swordfight. Jarman was intrigued by Caravaggio's signature on the canvas he painted soon afterwards, The Beheading Of John The Baptist (the only canvas the artist ever signed). The signature reads "I Caravaggio did this" and Jarman read this as a coded confession of murder. The director's final visual pun places Caravaggio's dead body in a tableau that recreates one of the artist's finest paintings, The Entombment Of Christ.
The three lead actors are superb. Nigel Terry bears a striking resemblance to a 1621 chalk portrait of the artist and, during one of the DVD's extras, the actor admits to that being one of the reasons he got the part. Even dressed in rags, Tilda Swinton is radiant in her screen debut. When Caravaggio presents her with a gown, for the big party, she is as excited as a schoolgirl; when she puts the dress on and brushes her hair she is transformed into the belle of the ball and becomes the very visage of the period's portraiture. Jarman's camera is in love with her; is it any wonder that he would cast her in each of his remaining films? Sean Bean is the embodiment of rough trade sexy; young, handsome and dangerous.

It is important that Jarman had crafted a portrait of the artist with his queerness intact; this was hardly commonplace in 1986. In his own words, Jarman shared with Caravaggio a desire to "knock the saints out of the sky." Whatever one thinks of this unusual film, Jarman does an admirable job depicting the religious, artistic, violent and sexual facets that make up the conflicting nature of this wild and talented beast. Though hardly an in-depth character study, it hardly matters. This is a film where the visuals tell the story and Caravaggio is a feast for the eyes. New meanings unfold with each subsequent viewing. It is one of the jewels of Jarman's eclectic career.


In 1986, Derek Jarman completed Caravaggio and, later that year, learned that he was HIV positive. Unlike many of his contemporaries, (Queen's frontman, Freddie Mercury, kept his condition secret until a few days before his death), Jarman felt it was important to make his HIV status public. AIDS would increase his activism and his films grew angrier and more political. The Last Of England (1988) attacked Margaret Thatcher's England. 1989's War Requiem featured Sir Laurence Olivier in his final film appearance and reunited the three leads from Caravaggio. The Garden (1990) was filmed in the director's famous garden at his cottage by the nearby Dungeness power station. It mixed religious iconography with the story of two gay lovers cast from Eden when they are arrested, tortured and eventually killed.
Jarman's next film was a very queer adaptation of Christopher Marlow's classic play, originally published in 1594, The Troublesome Reign and Lamentable Death of Edward the Second, King of England, with the Tragical Fall of Proud Mortimer. It is worth noting here that Marlow, like Jarman (and also Caravaggio), was a notorious "bad boy" artist in his day. He was known for his volativity and he was killed in a tavern brawl. Marlow is also widely believed to have been gay. Jarman's queer activism found its loudest voice in 1991's Edward II. Perhaps his best known film, Edward II was part of the watershed event that christened the "New Queer Cinema" when it was screened at Sundance in 1992 along with Christopher Munch's The Hours and Times, Tom Kalin's Swoon and Greg Arraki's The Living End.
Jarman's queer masterpiece is the historical tale of King Edward II, who ruled England from 1307 to 1327. Most of the film's dialogue is taken directly from Marlow's play, which described the scandalous sexual relationship between the King (Steven Waddington) and his beloved friend, Piers Gaveston (Andrew Tiernan). The nobility of Edward's court detest the low-born and base Gaveston, furious that he is clearly the King's favorite. Queen Isabella (Tilda Swinton) receives not the affections of her King and, together with the treacherous Mortimer (Nigel Terry), plots Gaveston's exile and death. Edward's love for Gaveston plunges the country into civil war. The King is ultimately imprisoned and his manner of execution involved a red hot poker shoved into his rectum.
The script, which retains Marlow's poetic language, is peppered with occasional profanities (the F word in particular) and the action is somewhat restructured to make it more cinematic. Edward II begins with the King imprisoned and, like Caravaggio, unfolds with a series of flashbacks. This approach allows Marlow's scenes between Edward and Lightborn, his jailer and executioner, to be interspersed and expanded upon throughout the film. Many of Edward's soliloquies are delivered while in prison as reflections of his past woes. The play's elder and junior Mortimers are combined into a single character.
It was important to Jarman that his Edward II be first, and foremost, a queer film and he makes this clear almost from the opening shot. Edward II begins with the King, wearing rags, asleep in his prison cell. Lightborn enters, carrying a modern nautical lantern and stoops to read the postcard the King clutches in his hand. "Father is deceased," the card reads. "Come Gaveston and share this kingdom with your dearest friend." The action then cuts to the first scene in Marlow's play, wherein Gaveston reads this letter from the King. Immediately, Jarman makes his queer intentions known as Gaveston delivers his first soliloquy while two hunky naked men sensuously fornicate behind him on his bed.
Edward II is filled with homoerotic imagery. Edward and Gaveston are frequently shown kissing and sharing the same bed. The parade of male flesh includes a dancer with a snake, a naked rugby scrum and a sweaty gymnasium. When the barons and the clergy rebel against their King, and when Gaveston is exiled and then later killed, Edward repeatedly whimpers like a young schoolgirl that no one will leave him and his beloved Gaveston be.
Like Caravaggio, Edward II is filmed on minimalist but artfully dressed stages (as, in fact, the Elizabethan stages of both Marlow and Shakespeare would have been) and Jarman further indulges his unique use of historical anachronisms. Edward's prison cell is a modern steel-plated sewer. A meeting of the Nobles takes place in a contemporary boardroom with the sounds of telephones and typewriters clattering in the background. Most of the performers are usually wearing modern dress and Isabella's gowns range from period Elizabethan to Coco Chanel. Edward's son plays with a toy robot; Lightborn heats his deadly poker with a welding torch. When Gaveston is sent into exile a second time, he shares a last dance with the King while the gender-bending Eurythmics singer, Annie Lennox, stands in the background and sings Cole Porter's "Everytime I Say Goodbye."
Edward II's queerest political statement, and Jarman's most striking blur of the past and present, occurs during the short battle scene between Edward and Mortimer's troops. To comment on the current day, Mortimer's army consists of modern riot police and Edward's followers are depicted as OutRage! protesters, (England's version of ACT-UP!), holding signs with slogans such as "Gay Desire Is Not A Crime," "Queer Is Cool" and "Get Your Filthy Laws Off Our Bodies." The men dressed as nuns seen amongst Edward's "soldiers" are members of that delightfully campy civil disobedience group, The Sisters Of Perpetual Indulgence.

In Marlow's original play and, to some extent Jarman's adaptation, the Nobles' hatred of Gaveston was motivated as much by class distinctions as it was by the scandal of sodomy. Given the times, Jarman wanted to emphasize the queer elements and attack modern homophobia. To this end, Mortimer is depicted as an evil gay basher (after he strangles one of Edward's followers he calls him a "girlboy") and, just to show that Edward isn't the only one to engage in "perverse" sexuality, the uber-macho and militaristic Mortimer fantasizes Gaveston's ruin while engaging in threeway hetero S&M sex with two prostitutes. The famous speech that the elder Mortimer gives in the play, which fits the King's dalliances with Gaveston into historical tradition, is delivered in the film by Edward's devoted brother, Kent instead:

"Thou seest by nature he is mild and calm;
And seeing his mind so dotes on Gaveston,
Let him without controlment have his will.
The mightiest Kings have had their minions
Great Alexander loved Hephaestion,
The conquering Hercules for Hylas wept,
And for Patroclus stern Achilles droop'd.
And not kings only, but the wisest men;
The Roman Tully loved Octavius,
Grave Socrates wild Alcibiades.
Then let his grace, whose youth is flexible,
And promiseth as much as we can wish,
Freely enjoy that vain lightheaded earl;
For riper years will wean him from such toys."

Yet Jarman doesn't make things easy, even for his target audience, and perhaps one of his boldest choices was to make Gaveston a thoroughly despicable and infantile character. Yes, his love scenes with the King are very erotic and provocative, (and will satisfy the prurient interests of gay male viewers), yet Gaveston's behavior elsewhere makes plain the Nobility's hatred of this man who has been elevated far above his station. The scene in which the Bishop responsible for Gaveston's first exile suffers torture is a thoroughly repugnant episode, and the King's boytoy couldn't be more annoying than when he clicks his tongue and dances in his underwear on the King's throne to mock a furious Mortimer. There is also no escaping the fact that Jarman's Edward is, himself, a playboy who acts like a spoiled brat when things do not go his way. Look closely, too, at the Francis Bacon-like tableau in which one of Edward's rivals hangs crucified on a swinging beef carcass as he awaits the King's dagger.
A few charges of misogyny were leveled against Jarman for his monstrous depiction of Queen Isabella. The Queen, for example, was not Kent's executioner in Marlow's play nor is there anything to suggest that, as seen in the film, she would kill him by chomping on his neck like a vampire. These charges, however, are baseless, when one considers that virtually everyone in the film is an unpleasant figure motivated by abuses of power. In fact, it is difficult - even for a queer audience - to not feel sympathy for Tilda Swinton's Isabella when the King pushes her away in bed. Besides, isn't there an old saying that says hell hath no fury like a woman scorned?
As Mortimer and Isabella's intrigues against the King become more and more brazen, Edward III - the King's young son - watches the cruel events unfolding around him with growing anger and alarm. The boy rejects his warlike toys, and becomes more and more queer. Marlow's play ends with the young Edward taking the reigns of power and ordering Mortimer's execution. The film ends with the boy dressed in a tuxedo and high heels, wearing lipstick, headphones and large dangling earrings, as he dances to Tchaikovsky's "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies" atop a cage in which Mortimer and his mother sit imprisoned and chastised.
This is not a stuffy and academic treatise and some of it is even laugh out loud funny. Just to use one example, I was highly amused by the image of Mortimer in bed, wearing a smoking jacket and reading a book entitled Unholy Babylon, while Isabella lays next to him with a towel wrapped around her head and cold cream all over her face. This grotesque and sitcom-ish parody of the nuclear family is taken even further as the two bicker while posing, along with the boy, for an official portrait as an unseen photographer's flashbulbs light up the screen. The look and feel of Edward II is so unique that it cannot help but command our attention.
Edward II is a difficult but rewarding film. Like Ian McKellen's 1995 modern dress adaptation of Richard III, it breathes new life into an old Elizabethan play for a contemporary audience. It is a gripping re-telling; viewers who might be confused by Caravaggio will have an easier time following this one's narrative. Jarman's visuals spring from the eyes of a painter and the acting by all is superb. Tilda Swinton again is radiant and enigmatic, and will inspire both pity and hatred. Nigel Terry's Mortimer is such a different character than the one he played in Caravaggio that it is hard to believe it is the same actor.
To some, many of Jarman's embellishments might seem like overkill but one must take into consideration that this was the work of a very angry and dying man whose body was being ravaged by AIDS while an uncaring and homophobic government spoke volumes by its inaction. He had no way of knowing that he only had three years to live as he filmed Edward II and he was using the time he had left to solidify his legacy as a leading subversive, and definitely queer, artist.

Jarman's last films were Wittgenstein (1993), a minimalist study in the style of Bertolt Brecht of the 20th century philosopher, and Blue (1993). Blue consisted entirely of a pulsing blue screen - the filmmaker was almost blind as he neared death - and narrated by himself and his friends, Tilda Swinton, Nigel Terry and John Quentin. It is generally regarded as being his last will and testament. Jarman died three months later. Blue was telecast on England's controversial Channel Four with a simulcast on BBC Radio 3. The film ends with these words:

"In time,
No one will remember our work
Our life will pass like the traces of a cloud
And be scattered like Mist that is chased by the
Rays of the sun
For our time is the passing of a shadow
And our lives will run like
Sparks through the stubble.
I place a delphinium, Blue, upon your grave"


Derek Jarman appears briefly in:
Prick Up Your Ears

Tilda Swinton also appears in:
Love Is the Devil