Heavily influenced by Pasolini, Jarman's first feature is no less provocative than his master's, equating the exiled Christians with a contemporary homosexual culture marginalised by the mainstream & with Sebastian himself presented as a kind of gay martyr, willing to suffer subjugation in order to preserve his own beliefs. It's a sensitive & deeply poetic work that finds an affinity between the body & the landscape.
Sebastiane is a fetish festival: sand and sweat - check; water and golden bodies - check; slow motion body madness - check; lust and love - check; muscles and fur - check. To me, it's an exercise of the male figure - and it's beautiful! But some things are lacking... a lot is lacking to consider this a masterpiece. I really enjoyed some scenes and the colors of this, though.
Jarman has a knack for adding incongruous elements in his films (trains in Caravaggio anyone?) so the historically accurate questions are not important. But, my oh my, this is a great film. The cinematography is one of the best I have seen. The blocking and compositions in the last scene is immaculate. Sebastiane's performance bothered me a bit. I suppose that's the worst part, but it is not a deal breaker.
Everything is already in place: the search for queer-punk icons in classic art and history, the eccentric set pieces and the beautiful landscapes. Sebastiane is easily Jarman's most homo-erotic film, complete with Brian Eno and slow-motion scenes, but it also somehow lacks the complexity and creativity of his next works, settling instead for gay/christian martyrdom, all rolled into one, in macho-military culture.
En sus mejores momentos, el cine de Jarman consigue encontrar un punto de balance entre las múltiples referencias que suelen poblar sus imágenes. La habitual tendencia al barroquismo de trinchera del cineasta inglés encuentra aquí, uno de sus primeras trabajos, un espacio de tensión entre la iconografía religiosa y su variadas potencialidades queer, que estallan en un deseo irrefrenable de erotismo y violencia.
"Jarman turns the camera, which has always had a thing for erotically shooting female actors, on the male form, giving us moving looks at Sebastiane as he was seen by the man who ultimately called for his death.... Inherently a film about longing, both of the body and of the spirit...." - Joshua Brunsting, Criterioncast.com
Sent in exile on a island without women, christian soldier Sebastiane rejects his centurion and meets his fate. Jarman's debut feature is a provocative poem on carnal and spiritual love that investigates the masochistic grounds of unconditional religious devotion. Striking frame composition and unexpected tongue-in-cheek elements (Cecili Milli!) more than make up for low-budget and lack of synchronous dialogue.