Derek Jarman

Derek Jarman

Michael Derek Elworthy Jarman (31 January 1942 – 19 February 1994) was an English film director, stage designer, diarist, artist, gardener and author.



Jarman was born in Northwood, Middlesex. His father was a military officer, born in New Zealand, and his mother was half-Jewish.[1] He boarded at Canford School in Dorset, and from 1960 studied at King's College London. This was followed by four years at the Slade School of Art, University College London, starting in 1963. He had a studio at Butler's Wharf, London, and was part of the Andrew Logan social scene in the 1970s. Jarman was outspoken about homosexuality, his never-ending public fight for gay rights, and his personal struggle with AIDS.

On 22 December 1986, Jarman was diagnosed as HIV positive, and discussed his condition in public. His illness prompted him to move to Prospect Cottage, Dungeness in Kent, near the nuclear power station. In 1994, he died of an AIDS-related illness in London,[1] aged 52. He is buried in the graveyard at St. Clements Church, Old Romney, Kent.

The band Chumbawamba subsequently released Song for Derek Jarman in his honour. Andi Sexgang, another music artist, released the CD Last of England as a Jarman tribute. The ambient experimental album The garden is full of metal, by Robin Rimbaud, includes Jarman speech samples. Manic Street Preachers' Bassist, Nicky Wire, also recorded a track titled Derek Jarman's Garden as a b-side to his single Break My Heart Slowly in 2006.


Jarman's first films were experimental super 8 mm 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. The Angelic Conversation featured Toby Mott and other members of the Radical artist collective The Grey Organisation[2]

Jarman first became known as a stage designer, getting his break in the film industry as production designer for Ken Russell's The Devils (1970). He later 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 film entirely in correct Latin. Sebastiane is a story about the martyrdom of St. Sebastian, which created a stir on the art cinema market because of its overt depiction of homosexual desire. Its stylistic tendency to camp was enhanced by its dialogue being in Latin.

He followed 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 among its cast featured punk groups and figures such as Wayne County of Wayne County & the Electric Chairs, Jordan, Toyah Willcox, and Adam and the Ants.

This was followed by Jarman's unconventional adaptation of Shakespeare's The Tempest in 1979. Praised by several Shakespeare scholars, but dismissed by some traditionalist critics, the film contains a considerable amount of nudity (mostly male, but also some female, including a scene in which Caliban's mother Sycorax breast-feeds her son), some unconventional casting (Toyah Willcox's Miranda hardly suggests innocent purity) and an unusual setting (a crumbling mansion as opposed to an island). Throughout the film, Jarman is liberal with Shakespeare's text, using it as a springboard for his own interpretation.

During the 1980s Jarman was one of the still few openly gay public figures in Britain and was a leading campaigner against Clause 28. He also worked to raise awareness of AIDS. His artistic practice in the early 1980s reflected these commitments, perhaps most famously in The Angelic Conversation (1985), a film in which the imagery is accompanied by a voice reciting Shakespeare's sonnets, obviously chosen for their openness to a homoerotic re-reading.

Jarman spent seven years making experimental super 8 mm films and attempting to raise money for Caravaggio (he later claimed to have rewritten the script seventeen times during this period).

Released in 1986, Caravaggio attracted a comparatively wide audience (and is still, barring the cult hit Jubilee, probably Jarman's most widely-known work). This is partly due to the involvement, for the first time, of the British television company Channel 4 in funding and distribution. Funded by the BFI and produced by film theorist Colin MacCabe, Caravaggio became Jarman's most famous film, and marked the beginning of a new phase in Jarman's filmmaking career: from now on all his films would be partly funded by television companies, often receiving their most prominent exhibition in TV screenings. Caravaggio also saw Jarman work with actress Tilda Swinton for the first time. Here, his trademark aesthetics flourished: overt depictions of homosexual love, narrative ambiguity, and superb visuals, particularly the live representations of Caravaggio's most famous paintings, are all prominent features of the work.

The conclusion of Caravaggio also marked the beginning of a temporary abandonment of traditional narrative in Jarman's films. Frustrated by the formality of 35 mm film production, and the institutional dependence and resultant prolonged inactivity associated with it (which had already cost him seven years with Caravaggio, as well as derailing several long-term projects), Jarman returned to and expanded the super 8 mm-based form he had previously worked in on Imagining October and The Angelic Conversation. The film was entered into the 36th Berlin International Film Festival where it won the Silver Bear for an outstanding single achievement.[3]

The first film to result from this new semi-narrative phase, The Last of England told the death of a country, ravaged by its own internal decay and the economic restructuring of Thatcher's government. "Wrenchingly beautiful…the film is one of the few commanding works of personal cinema in the late 80's – a call to open our eyes to a world violated by greed and repression, to see what irrevocable damage has been wrought on city, countryside and soul, how our skies, our bodies, have turned poisonous", wrote a Village Voice critic. This film re-interpreted Ford Madox Brown's famous painting of emigrants leaving the English shores for a life in the New World, and has been compared to Humphrey Jennings's documentary Listen to Britain (1942) which constitutes its very antithesis. Where Listen to Britain indulges in the idyllic, The Last of England tries to expose the decay.

During the making of his film The Garden, Jarman became seriously ill. Although he recovered sufficiently to complete the work, he never attempted anything on a comparable scale afterwards, returning to a more pared-down form for his concluding narrative films, Edward II (perhaps his most politically outspoken work, informed by his Queer activism) and the Brechtian Wittgenstein, a delicate tragicomedy based on the life of the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein. It was a later complaint of Jarman's that with the disappearance of the Independent Film sector it had become impossible for him to get finance. Jarman made a side income by directing music videos for various artists including Marianne Faithfull, The Smiths and the Pet Shop Boys.

In 1989, Jarman's film War Requiem brought the legendary actor Laurence Olivier out of retirement. It turned out to be Olivier's last performance.

By the time of his 1993 film Blue, Jarman was losing his sight and dying of AIDS-related complications. Blue consists of a single shot of saturated blue colour filling the screen, as background to a soundtrack composed by Simon Fisher Turner, and featuring original music by Coil and other artists, in which Jarman describes his life and vision. When it was shown on British television, Channel 4 carried the image whilst the soundtrack was broadcast simultaneously on BBC Radio 3, a collaborative project unique for its time.

His final testament as a film-maker was the film Glitterbug made for the Arena slot on BBC Two, and broadcast shortly after Jarman's death. Compiled and edited from many hours of super 8 footage shot with friends and companions throughout his career, it is a moving collage of memories, people and moments lost in time, accompanied by a specially commissioned soundtrack from Brian Eno.

Other works

Derek Jarman's garden, Prospect Cottage, Dungeness, taken in May 2007

Jarman's work broke new ground in creating and expanding the fledgling form of 'the pop video' in England, and in gay rights activism. Several volumes of his diaries have been published.

Jarman also directed the 1989 tour by the UK duo Pet Shop Boys. By pop concert standards this was a highly theatrical event with costume and specially shot films accompanying the individual songs. Jarman was the stage director of Sylvano Bussotti's opera L'Ispirazione, first staged in Florence in 1998.

Jarman is also remembered for his famous shingle cottage-garden, created in the latter years of his life, in the shadow of Dungeness nuclear power station. The house was built in tarred timber. Raised wooden text on the side of the cottage is the first stanza and the last five lines of the last stanza of John Donne's poem, The Sun Rising. The cottage's beach garden was made using local materials and has been the subject of several books. At this time, Jarman also began painting again (see the book: Evil Queen: The Last Paintings, 1994).

Jarman was the author of several books including his autobiography Dancing Ledge, a collection of poetry A Finger in the Fishes Mouth, two volumes of diaries Modern Nature and Smiling In Slow Motion and two treatises on his work in film and art The Last of England (also published as Kicking the Pricks) and Chroma. Other notable published works include film scripts (Up in the Air, Blue, War Requiem, Caravaggio, Queer Edward II and Wittgenstein: The Terry Eagleton Script/The Derek Jarman Film), a study of his garden at Dungeness Derek Jarman's Garden, and At Your Own Risk, a defiant celebration of gay sexuality.


Feature films

Short films

  • Electric Fairy (1971)
  • Studio Bankside (1971)
  • Garden of Luxor (1972)
  • Burning the Pyramids (1972)
  • Miss Gaby (1972)
  • A Journey to Avebury (1971)
  • Andrew Logan Kisses the Glitterati (1972)
  • Tarot (aka the Magician, 1972)
  • Sulphur (1973)
  • Stolen Apples for Karen Blixen (1973)
  • Miss World (1973)
  • The Devils at the Elgin (aka Reworking the Devils, 1974)
  • Fire Island (1974)
  • Duggie Fields (1974)
  • Ula's Fete (aka Ula's Chandelier, 1975)
  • Picnic at Ray's (1975)
  • Sebastian Wrap (1975)
  • Sloane Square: A Room of One's Own (1976)
  • Gerald's Film (1976)
  • Art and the Pose (1976)
  • Houston Texas (1976)
  • Jordan's Dance (1977)
  • Every Woman for Herself and All for Art (1977)
  • The Pantheon (1978)
  • In the Shadow of the Sun (1974) (in 1980 Throbbing Gristle was commissioned to provide a new soundtrack for this 54 minute film eponymous piece by Throbbing Gristle)
  • T.G.: Psychic Rally in Heaven (1981)
  • Jordan's Wedding (1981)
  • Pirate Tape (William S. Burroughs Film) (1982)
  • Waiting for Waiting for Godot (1982)
  • Pontormo and Punks at Santa Croce (1982)
  • B2 Tape/Film (1983)
  • Catalan (1984)
  • Imagining October (1984)
  • Aria (1987)
    • segment: Depuis le Jour
  • L'Ispirazione (1988)
  • Glitterbug (1994) (one-hour compilation film of various Super-8 shorts with music by Brian Eno)

Jarman's early Super-8 mm work has been included on some of the DVD releases of his films.

Music videos

Scenic design


  • The Last Paintings of Derek Jarman (Mark Jordan, Granada TV 1995). Broadcast by Granada TV and shown at the San Francisco Frameline Film Festival. Last footage shot of Derek producing his final works. Guests inc Margi Clarke. Toyah Wilcox. Brett Anderson. Frank Schofield. Jon Savage. To coincide with the broadcast the exhibition Evil Queen was premiered at the Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester. (Contact BFI for footage).
  • Derek (2008): a biography of the life and work of Jarman, directed by Isaac Julien, narrated by Tilda Swinton.
  • Red Duckies (2006): Short film directed by Luke Seomore & Joseph Bull, featuring a voice-over from Simon Fisher Turner commissioned by Dazed & Confused (magazine) for World Aids Day 2006. [2]
  • Delphinium: A Childhood Portrait of Derek Jarman (2009): a "stylized and lyrical coming-of-age" short film combining narrative and documentary elements directed by Matthew Mishory depicting Jarman's "artistic, sexual, and political awakening in postwar England".[6] Jarman's surviving muse Keith Collins and Siouxsie and the Banshees founder Steven Severin both participated in the making of the film, which screened at the 2009 Raindance Film Festival in London.


  1. ^ Deaths England and Wales 1984–2006
  2. ^
  3. ^ "Berlinale: 1986 Prize Winners". Retrieved 2011-01-15. 
  4. ^ Peake, Tony. 1999. Derek Jarman: A Biography. New York: The Overlook Press/Little, Brown. pg. 312: listed as "Steve Hale's 'Touch the Radio, Dance!'"
  5. ^ a b c d e f From the programme to the production of Waiting for Godot.
  6. ^,4658,0,0,1,0

Further reading

  • Martin Frey. Derek Jarman – Bewegte Bilder eines Malers. (BoD, 2008), ISBN 978-3-8370-1217-0
  • Steven Dillon. Derek Jarman and Lyric Film: The Mirror and the Sea. (2004).
  • Tony Peake. Derek Jarman (Little, Brown & Co, 2000). 600-page biography.
  • Michael O'Pray. Derek Jarman: Dreams of England. (British Film Institute, 1996).
  • Howard Sooley. Derek Jarman's Garden. (Thames & Hudson, 1995).
  • Derek Jarman. 'Modern Nature' (Diaries 1989–1990)
  • Derek Jarman. 'Smiling in Slow Motion' (Diaries 1991–1994)

'Evil Queen' Exhibition catalogue. Forward by Mark Jordan ISBN 0-9524356-0-8

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Derek Jarman — Derek Michael Jarman (* 31. Januar 1942 in Northwood, Middlesex, England; † 19. Februar 1994) war ein britischer Filmregisseur und Künstler. Inhaltsverzeichnis 1 Leben und Werk 2 Filmografie 3 …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Derek Jarman — est un réalisateur, scénariste, acteur, directeur de la photographie et monteur britannique, né le 31 janvier 1942 à Londres et mort le 19 février 1994 dans la même ville. Sommaire 1 Biographie 2 Bibliographie …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Derek Jarman — Saltar a navegación, búsqueda Derek Jarman Nombre real Michael Derek Elworthy Jarman Nacimiento 31 de enero 1942 Northwood …   Wikipedia Español

  • Derek Jarman — [Derek Jarman] (1942–94) an English film ↑director, artist and writer who was also known as a campaigner for gay rights. His best known films include Sebastiane (1976), the ↑punk film Jubilee (1978) …   Useful english dictionary

  • Derek Jarman — ➡ Jarman * * * …   Universalium

  • Delphinium: A Childhood Portrait of Derek Jarman — Directed by Matthew Mishory Produced by Stephanie Frank Edward Singletary, Jr. Joe Wihl Lili Wilde Matthew Mishory Andreas Andrea Written by Matthew Mishory …   Wikipedia

  • Themes for Derek Jarman's Blue — Infobox single | Name = Themes For Derek Jarman s Blue Type = 7 Artist = Coil Released = 1993 November Recorded = Genre = Acid House, Disco Length = ? Label = Threshold House Producer = Coil Reviews = Last single = Airborne Bells/Is Suicide a… …   Wikipedia

  • Jarman — Derek Jarman Derek Jarman est un réalisateur, scénariste, acteur, directeur de la photographie et monteur britannique, né le 31 janvier 1942 à Londres, décédé le 19 février 1994 dans la même ville. Sommaire 1 Biographie 2… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Jarman — may refer to:People *Alan Jarman, Australian politician *Andrew Jarman, Australian rules footballer *Barry Jarman, Australian cricketer and Australian rules footballer *Claude Jarman Jr., American child film actor *Darren Jarman, Australian… …   Wikipedia

  • Jarman — ist der Familienname folgender Personen: Alan Jarman (1923–1992), australischer Politiker Claude Jarman junior (* 1934), US amerikanischer Schauspieler Derek Jarman (1942–1994), britischer Filmregisseur John Jarman (1915–1982), US amerikanischer… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

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