Derek Jarman's Angelic Conversations
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Best known as an iconoclastic, wildly inventive filmmaker, Derek Jarman was also an accomplished author, painter, and landscape artist. In Derek Jarman's Angelic Conversations, Jim Ellis considers Jarman's wide-ranging oeuvre to present a broad perspective on the career and life of one of the most provocative, engaged, and important artists of the twentieth century.
Derek Jarman's Angelic Conversations analyzes Jarman's work-including his famous films Caravaggio, Jubilee, Edward II, Blue, and Sebastiane-in relation to his critiques of the government and his activism in the gay community, from the liberationist movement to the AIDS epidemic. While others have frequently focused on Jarman's biography, Ellis looks at how his politics and aesthetics are intertwined to comprehend his most radical aspects, particularly in films such as War Requiem and The Last of England.
Here Jarman is revealed as an artist who keenly understood the role of history and mythology in creating a personal and national identity: as an activist, he sought to challenge old histories while producing new ones to carve out a space for alternative communities in Britain late in the twentieth century.
in particular the space of the ﬂat, the following sections expand the experience of that space to include the objects within that space, the persons that pass through it, and the dimension of time itself. The ﬁlm as a whole is interested in mapping out a psychic geography: attempting to convey the experience of this particular social and sexual milieu. Imaginary Space For Jarman, formal experimentation often came in the processing and reprocessing of images and, in particular, an exploration of
the myth signify in substantially different ways. This is and isn’t Saint Sebastian: this Sebastian is martyred not for renouncing homosexuality for Christianity, but rather for his embrace of a homosexual spirituality nominally identiﬁed as Christian. This remaking of the meaning of Sebastian’s martyrdom is at least partially accomplished by Jarman’s focus on the masochistic dimensions of the Saint Sebastian legend. In a brief but stimulating reading of the ﬁlm, Earl Jackson Jr. focuses on what
tended to give short shrift to the formal aspects of the ﬁlms. Neither the biographical nor the political approach to Jarman’s career is illegitimate or unjustiﬁed, and the work certainly encourages them. But Jarman’s creative use of biography, and his complex relation to politics, make such approaches both limiting and potentially treacherous. It is my sense that the most interesting and, indeed, the most radical aspects of his work are not located in what we might call the surface politics of
childhood idyll with his ﬁrst love. The oscillation echoes the ﬁlm’s movement between the deathbed scene and the preceding events of his life, and induces the same kind of double vision that is called for in Caravaggio’s paintings, seeing the past through the present and asking us to speculate on the connection. The voice-over works to create, as Dillon observes, an “auditory space” in the ﬁlm that is largely separate from the images.61 This particular kind of memorial or memorializing space will
arrangement than the front, with groupings of plants and found objects; the compositional principles on display provide a link with the collage aesthetic in Jarman’s experimental ﬁlms and in his writings. Here we see groupings of similar objects (a pyramid of metal ﬂoats, for example), unlikely pairings, and witty juxtapositions: a battered metal pot planted with sempervivum looks on ﬁrst glance like a bowl of raspberries; a rotting red rubber glove holds a stone in its hand. Sticks are topped