Drama / History / Romance
Drama / History / Romance
In this Derek Jarman version of Christopher Marlowe's Elizabethan drama, in modern costumes and settings, Plantagenet king Edward II hands the power-craving nobility the perfect excuse by taking as lover besides his diplomatic wife, the French princess Isabel, not an acceptable lady at court but the ambitious Piers Gaveston, who uses his favor in bed even to wield political influence - the stage is set for a palace revolt which sends the gay pair from the throne to a terminal torture dungeon.
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June 15, 2018 at 01:15 PM
Edward II: "Come Gaveston, and share the kingdom with thy dearest friend"
"Edward II" (1991) by Derek Jarman is a variation on Christopher Marlowe's 16th-century play "The Troublesome Reign of Edward II" which tells the story of England openly gay King Edward, and his relationship with Piers Gaveston that bitterly angers his queen, Isabella of France, "The French She-Wolf", and eventually leads to his fall - he will lose his Kingdom and his life. If I had not known that Jarman was a painter and a Caravaggio admirer, I would've guessed immediately after first 5 minutes or so. His usage of light and shadows was amazing. His lack of historical settings and staging the film among the bare walls as well as including many anachronisms, such as modern clothes and cigarette smoking gave the old story timeless feel. Tilda Swinton as a woman scorned never looked so ethereal and breathtakingly beautiful. For her acting, she won the best Actress award at the Venice Film Festival in 1991. "Edward II" is a gripping film that is in the same league as Julie Taymor's stunning adaptation of Shakespeare's "Titus" but it is certainly not for everyone.
Edward II makes a brilliant hodge-podge of history by vaulting a sixteenth century play about a fourteenth century English king onto a dark, abstract twentieth century stage. Iconoclastic, yes; anachronistic, yes; imbecilic, no. While on the page Marlowe's poetry speaks for itself, in director Derek Jarman's hands it provides a counterpoint to the film's daring, elegant, eloquent visuals. King Edward and his lover, Piers Gaveston, are attacked by the raving heteronormative toffs for their homosexuality and Gaveston's less-than-aristocratic background. Great moments include a cameo by Annie Lennox and a bull's-eye by Tilda Swinton.
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Derek Jarman's Greatest Film
Before his AIDS-related death in 1994, English filmmaker Derek Jarman (also an acclaimed painter and writer whose introduction to film was working as a set designer for Ken Russell) created a large and aggressively experimental body of work, developing a vivid personal style notable for its' political ferocity and its' unbelievable visual lushness. By the time EDWARD II appeared, Jarman had honed his innovative mix of surrealism, mind-bending shifts in perspective, and a well-articulated take on the political implications of gay liberation into a vision that at once placed him in the vanguard of late 20th century independent filmmakers, while simultaneously establishing him as one of the most uncompromising activist/artists to have never been described or marketed as such.
EDWARD II very loosely adapted from a 500-year-old Christopher Marlowe play about the doomed, deposed (and gay) English king is all of the above combining in one brilliant flash, and Jarman was aware of the irony built into the fact that this very challenging, explosive tour-de-force of a film - shot on a shoestring budget - brought him closer to 'mainstream' success than anyone (including Jarman) would've ever believed possible. Maintaining much of Marlowe's original play and the Old English dialog while visually placing the story in the present day (the sets are minimalistic, with contemporary clothing and set design), Jarman attempts to locate with surgical precision - the origins of violent, contemporary homophobia, and contemporary class bigotry as well (Edward's lover was a peasant, so the implications of social-class transgression are also integral to the story) in historic precedents.
Jarman's art background contributes to the stunning visual effect, and he had worked with most of the cast before, lending the film an effective intimacy things never seem too avant-garde, and the righteous sense of corrosive rage seen here (this is one of the angriest, most politically enraged films I've ever seen) essential to this story never veers off target.