Adapted from the Christopher Marlowe play, Derek Jarman boldly depicts Britain’s only acknowledged gay monarch (1307-1327), whose preference for his male lover over his queen created conflict with his barons and eventually led to civil war.
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Jarman's masterwork is a marvel of low-budget ingenuity & defiant personal vision. Setting Marlowe's text in what appears to be an underground bunker (extending the post-apocalyptic reveries of his previous work) we have the sense of an imprisoning world of stone & shadow where no true love can grow. Modern iconography crashes into archaic speech, as Jarman once against shows the cyclical nature of human experience.
Jarman, here working with his biggest budget, took the Christopher Marlowe play and adapted it pretty faithfully adding a visual subtext of gay oppression and expression resulting in one of his best realized creations. The wildly anachronistic visual pastiche is a triumph as is the wonderful costume creations of Sandy Powell long before the multiple Oscars she would score later in her career.
Resolutely 'queer' take on Marlowe, overlaid with needless (then contemporary) agit prop. It works in fits and starts with the stark, studio-bound staging enhanced by some crisp performances from Terry and Swinton, although Jarman lays on the queerness with a heavy spade. However, it's a fairly steady narrative away from the director's more personal experiments in tone and form. Straight forward.
A pure marvel. Enjoyed every single shot of it, full of Jarman's trademark anachronisms, Tilda Swinton's gorgeous looks and a bewitching combination of passion and the frenzy of despair that burns the characters out. [The final scene with little Edward dancing on a cage is oh so poignantly beautiful]