Close Up

18 - 30 September 2019: Close-Up on Derek Jarman


"Derek Jarman was one of the most creative, idiosyncratic, and controversial filmmakers to come out of Britain. A deeply independent filmmaker, he embraced low budget filmmaking for its aesthetics and ethics, welcoming the opportunity to innovate and work with friends, but also to resist the way films were traditionally conceived and made, and thus willingly unsettle audiences. Jarman was openly gay and his films often foregrounded repressed gay history, at times boldly linking it to contemporary queer issues. His best-known films are fascinating, irreverent explorations of gay figures – Caravaggio, Edward II, Wittgenstein using either stunning minimalist sets or lush tableaux to testify to their complex lives. Jarman also created looser, stream-of-conscious films, such as The Last of England, War Requiem, and The Garden, dreamlike, often wordless, constructions. In them, one can sense Jarman reflecting on his own mortality after he was diagnosed with HIV. With The Tempest and Edward II, he loosely adapted Elizabethan plays, but contemporary culture also inspired him, including the 1970s British punk movement as seen in Jubilee. One can trace Jarman's concerns through his films: the social realities of Thatcher's England, sexual politics and the AIDS crisis, religion and spirituality, gardening. “I've always felt that the cinema needed more autobiography,” Jarman once noted. His last film, his most direct musing on his life, is the unforgettable Blue.

Jarman was originally a painter-as is evident in a number of his films-and when he turned to filmmaking he was open to all formats. He regularly filmed in Super 8, using it as a kind of notetaking, and then incorporating the footage into his feature films but he also made short Super 8 films. Jarman designed sets for the opera and ballet and eventually for filmmaker Ken Russell. He went on to collaborate with a host of actors, artists, writers, musicians, and activists, notably muse Tilda Swinton, and was an influence on a generation of artists and filmmakers such as Isaac Julien, whose Derek pays tribute to him." – BAMFA

Marking twenty-five years since his passing, and beginning on the cusp of the Autumn equinox, this programme looks away from Derek Jarman’s more well known narrative works to focus on a selection of lesser-screened poetic experiments, shown here in new digital restorations by the BFI and LUMA foundation.

Super 8 Film Cycle
Derek Jarman, 1972-82, 54 min

In the Shadow of the Sun
Derek Jarman, 1981, 54 min

The Angelic Conversation
Derek Jarman, 1985, 78 min

The Last of England
Derek Jarman, 1987, 87 min

The Garden
Derek Jarman, 1990, 92 min

Derek Jarman, 1993, 112 min