Director Derek Jarman’s (Caravaggio, The Tempest) feature film debut Sebastiane lays bare the latent homoeroticism that has always lurked beneath the glossy surface of Hollywood biblical epics. Jarman crafts his slyly lurid yet exquisitely poetic historical drama around the martyrdom of St. Sebastian in the same way that Italian Renaissance painters used the image of St. Sebastian to eroticize the male nude. Though audaciously performed entirely in Latin, and carrying the same visual boldness of Jarman’s collaboration with Ken Russell on The Devils, Sebastiane depicts both earthly lust and spiritual yearning with what The Guardian described as “an honesty and directness that’s the absolute opposite of camp.” _Sebastiane_’s lyricism is supported by one of cult composer Brian Eno’s first and best music scores.
Stripped of rank and exiled to a remote Sardinian outpost, Roman soldier and suspected Christian Sebastian (Leonardo Treviglio) becomes the object of his commanding officer Severus’ (Barney James) aggressive desire. As Sebastian turns his back on his fellow soldiers in favor of his own visionary mystical longings, the sun-bleached Mediterranean idyll becomes a psycho-sexual hothouse where predatory desire and religious longing set the stage for a shocking tableau of death and martyrdom.
Sebastiane caused a riot when it premiered at the Locarno Film Festival, and was a surprise hit upon its initial release in the UK. —Kino
Derek Jarman (January 31, 1942- February 19, 1994), British film director, artist, and writer.
Jarman’s first films were experimental super 8mm shorts, a form he never entirely abandoned, and later developed further (in his films Imagining October (1984), The Angelic Conversation (1985), The Last Of England (1987) and The Garden (1990)) as a parallel to his narrative work.
Jarman made his debut in “overground” narrative filmmaking with the groundbreaking Sebastiane (1976), arguably the first British film to feature positive images of gay sexuality, and the first (and to date, only) film entirely in Latin. He follwed this with the film many regard as his first masterpiece, Jubilee (shot 1977, released 1978), in which Queen Elizabeth I of England is transported forward in time to a desolate and brutal wasteland ruled by her twentieth century namesake. Jubilee was arguably the first UK punk movie, and amongst its cast featured punk groups and figures such as Wayne County… read more
Jarman's debut was a homoerotic take on the St. Sebastiane martyrdom shot in Sardinia with spoken Latin. Audacious and cinematic though lacking in much visual finesse. Eno's score adds a certain other worldliness to the proceedings. Decidedlly not for all tastes but worth the effort. Jarman's ongoing career would bring many fine films that better stand the test of time.
Derek Jarman exposed the homoerotic undercurrents of Hollywood's Biblical epics in his raucous debut feature which recounts the tale of Saint Sebastian, a Christian soldier who refused to fight, and was put to death despite falling into the commanding officer's romantic favor. Essentially an unapologetic piece of gay erotica, the film is an energetic, if ultimately aimless, exercise in cinematic style.
For thousands of years people have been looking backwards through the lens of history to imagine a more sacred and simple time. Much to the disappoint of those who choose to search, there have always… read review
Genre: Drama, History