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Author: Rowland Wymer

Michael Derek Elworthy Jarman as a true 'Renaissance Man' in the colloquial sense of the word, as well as having a strong and permanent interest in the art, thought, and literature of the Renaissance. Although the tone of Jarman's films is frequently melancholic, the threat which death poses for desire is sometimes modulated by an apparent desire for death. He was never comfortable with the label 'gay', regarding it as both too stable and too self-satisfied, too concerned to present a 'positive' image. He preferred the more fluid and mobile term 'queer'. Jarman's first feature-length film was remarkable in many ways and in at least three respects was virtually unique at the time for a commercially distributed picture. In 1977, the year of the Queen's Silver Jubilee, punk had spread beyond a handful of clubs and bands in London and New York and was starting to look like a complete new youth culture in the making. From 1978 to 1985, whatever else he was engaged in, Jarman's life was dominated by his desire to make a film about the life of the Italian painter Caravaggio. Wittgenstein had been a completely unexpected commission which Jarman, despite his failing health, had rapidly and brilliantly converted into 'A Derek Jarman Film' through his usual intense personal identification with his subject. Blue was one of a cluster of films addressing the issue of AIDS which were released in the early 1990s.

Rowland Wymer

Wittgenstein had been a completely unexpected commission which Jarman, despite his failing health, had rapidly and brilliantly converted into ‘A Derek Jarman Film’ through his usual intense personal identification with his subject. By contrast, his final film Blue was the outcome of nearly twenty years of creative thinking. Although the combination of an unchanging blue screen and a soundtrack

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Renaissance Man in search of a soul
Rowland Wymer

soul. (Derek Jarman, Kicking the Pricks ) Before he died in 1994 Derek Jarman had achieved distinction in an astonishing number of different activities – as a film director, painter, writer, set designer, gardener, and political activist. He was a true ‘Renaissance Man’ in the colloquial sense of the word, as well as having a strong and permanent interest in the art, thought, and

in Derek Jarman
Rowland Wymer

) 9 There is a detailed discussion of the implications of this scene in Allen J. Frantzen, ‘Tears for Abraham: The Chester Play of Abraham and Isaac and Antisacrifice in Works by Wilfred Owen, Benjamin Britten, and Derek Jarman’, Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies , 31:3 (Fall 2001), 445–76. 10 Wilfred Owen: The Complete

in Derek Jarman
Rowland Wymer

‘Jarman, for all his admirable radicalism, has a very English middle-class sensibility, which is light years removed from the austerity and intellectual passion of his subject’. 19 Others, including Ray Monk, thought that Jarman had remained deeply faithful to his subject whilst making a picture which, though it was a commissioned project and had been co-written and codirected, was in every important respect ‘A Derek Jarman

in Derek Jarman
Rowland Wymer

screened by the BBC. But the differences also signal a certain ambivalence in Jarman towards his source material. The film is titled, neutrally enough, Edward II and its credits tell us that it is ‘based on the play by Christopher Marlowe’. By contrast, the script is called Queer Edward II and has a running title saying ‘improved by Derek Jarman’. Every page of the script is embellished with provocative headings and

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Rowland Wymer

–9. 5 See John Roberts, ‘Painting the Apocalypse’, Afterimage , 12 (1985), 36–9. 6 William Pencak, The Films of Derek Jarman (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland, 2002), p. 144. 7 ‘Through Jarman’s feverish, vertiginous aesthetic, the spectator is almost nauseated by

in Derek Jarman
Rowland Wymer

Derek Jarman, Derek Jarman’s Caravaggio (London: Thames and Hudson, 1986), p. 6. 2 Two good recent biographies are Helen Langdon, Caravaggio: A Life (London: Chatto and Windus, 1998; repr. London: Pimlico, 1999) and Peter Robb, M (Sydney: Duffy and Snelgrove, 1998; repr. with corrections London: Bloomsbury, 1999). Robb permits

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Rowland Wymer

. 5 Ibid. , p. 55. 6 Passage deleted from the typescript of Kicking the Pricks , BFI Jarman Collection II, Box 21. 7 The text of the ‘letter’ is quoted in Derek Jarman: A Portrait , ed. Roger Wollen (London: Thames and Hudson, 1996), p. 27. There is a reproduction of

in Derek Jarman
Rowland Wymer

Jarman’s Film’. His intensely proprietorial feelings are even more strongly conveyed in a joky draft of the titles which exists in his unpublished papers: ‘JARMAN FILMS PRESENT / SEBASTIANUS / FROM AN ORIGINAL IDEA BY DEREK JARMAN / SCRIPT BY DEREK JARMAN / DESIGNED BY D. JARMAN / COSTUMES BY D. JARMAN (PARIS) / DIRECTED BY DEREK JARMAN AND PAUL HUMFRESS / ADDITIONAL DIALOGUES BY JARMAN’. 3 The decision to make the film in

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