Derek Jarman and Lyric Film: The Mirror and the Sea

Derek Jarman and Lyric Film: The Mirror and the Sea

Derek Jarman and Lyric Film: The Mirror and the Sea

Derek Jarman and Lyric Film: The Mirror and the Sea

Synopsis

Derek Jarman was the most important independent filmmaker in England during the 1980s. Using emblems and symbols in associative contexts, rather than conventional, cause-and-effect narrative, he created films noteworthy for their lyricism and poetic feeling and for their exploration of the gay experience. His style of filmmaking also links Jarman with other prominent directors of lyric film, including Pier Paolo Pasolini, Andrei Tarkovsky, Jean Cocteau, and Jean Genet. This pathfinding book places Derek Jarman in the tradition of lyric film and offers incisive readings of all eleven of his feature-length films, from Sebastiane to Blue. Steven Dillon looks at Jarman and other directors working in a similar vein to establish how lyric films are composed through the use of visual imagery and actual poetry. He then traces Jarman' use of imagery (notably mirrors and the sea) in his films and discusses in detail the relationship between cinematic representations and sexual identity. This insightful reading of Jarman' work helps us better understand how films such as The Last of England and The Garden can be said to cohere and mean without being reduced to clear messages. Above all, Dillon' book reveals how truly beautiful and brilliant Jarman' movies are.

Excerpt

Deep red sun climbing from a still sea, the wet shingle ablaze with
reflections. Walked into the garden floating on a sea of pearls. The
garden casts mysterious shadows. Not a breath of wind.

In Derek Jarman’s The Garden (1990) two nearby but apparently unrelated images help indicate the genre of this film. Jarman has a name for these images, which were improvised on the first day of shooting: “emblemata.” These are pictures that invite you to read, to interpret. First image: a man in kingly costume looks directly into the camera; he returns in a few moments to the center of the screen and bites deliberately into an apple. We note that . . .

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