The Queen Is Dead is a short film which incorporates three music videos Derek Jarman directed for The Smiths: “The Queen Is Dead,” “Panic,” and “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out.”
This gorgeous 13-minute film was accompanied by three of the Smiths’ songs: “The Queen Is Dead,” “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out,” and “Panic.” The film is of a piece with the evocative collage features Jarman made during the same period, proving that this so-called “music video” is as much a part of his oeuvre as The Angelic Conversation or The Last of England.
The film is structured around its trio of songs, with each part somewhat distinct from the others. The songs flow into one another, and the first and third section mirror each other in style and techniques, but the film is unmistakeably a triptych rather than a seamless whole. The film opens with Jarman’s frantic, jittery interpretation of “The Queen Is Dead,” with the imagery conjuring a nightmare vision of disintegrating England to match its title sentiment. In strobing, sped-up motion, hoods spray paint slogans across crumbling stone walls, a flaming record shoots across the screen like a comet, a young man with angel wings appears to be suffering, doubled over in pain, and jeweled crowns float in the midst of layered video superimpositions. This segment is unrelentingly fast-paced, matching the steady pulse of the accompanying song.
Jarman’s images are simple and iconic, and he repeats them as though spelling out a mysterious coded message in rebus form: flower petals, a girl’s face, a revolving guitar, abandoned buildings. Only towards the end does the repetitive structure begin to break down, opening up for several longer shots of a girl with close-cropped hair frolicking in a courtyard surrounded by desolate buildings, throwing a British flag into the wind to flutter above her. The pace slows only slightly for these shots, and there are still interjections of layered video abstractions, but the effect of this slight slackening is exaggerated by the film’s overall density and speed. These few moments of relative relaxation are stunning in context. –seul-le-cinema.blogspot.com
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