Derek Jarman, trance films and medieval art cinema
in British art cinema
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While he is often portrayed as having a particular affiliation with the Renaissance, Derek Jarman engages with a highly eclectic array of influences, both early and modern, in his work. Many of Jarman’s films have their roots in medieval literature. Indeed, he viewed his punk film Jubilee as ‘a healing fiction’ that ‘harked back to Pearl and Piers Plowman’; while he claimed that The Last of England was structured like a medieval dream vision. Jarman’s work is unusual in that it is simultaneously experimental and traditional and this chapter will also show how his medieval influences exist in a complex relationship with the work of more modern cinematic forebears. This chapter offers a close reading of the medieval aspects of several key Jarman films. It will also consider important references to medieval literature in his journals and notebooks and will looked at his unfilmed ‘medieval epic’, Bob Up-A-Down. Finally, the chapter argues that Jarman belongs to a clear line of European film-makers, including Sergei Eisenstein, Ingmar Bergman, Robert Bresson and Pier Paolo Pasolini, and British film-makers such as Michael Powell, Ken Russell and John Boorman, who have shown a fascination with the Middle Ages in their work.

British art cinema

Creativity, experimentation and innovation

Editors: Paul Newland and Brain Hoyle


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