Jarman steamed through his life, determined to live out the repression imposed upon him by a sick Catholic schooling system. It is the type of repression that society imposes with all the self righteous venom of frustrated paternalism backed up by misrepresented and outdated religious dogma. The Church has been, and will always be, its own worst enemy. And yet, in a triumphant way, maybe it was the Church then, that stimulated the artist Jarman in his particular role as liberator of the homosexual psyche.
History is riddled with homosexual/bisexual artists: shakespeare, t.s. elliot, michaelangelo, passolini, picasso, dali, lorca...the list is endless....but one is never given this information when studying them at school, at university.
This documentary ?Derek? by Isaac Julian, is perceptively (though at times somewhat bitterly) narrated by a down-to-earth Tilda Swinton (The Beach, The Chronicles of Narnia, the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe) an astonishing actress who has taken part in many of Jarman?s films, and who was a lifelong friend, possibly even his muse. There is much in her narration that provokes thought. The film gives us a good background to Jarman?s youth, his formative years, his parents, and his fascination with film. The documentary reveals much of what inspired Jarman filmatically, and how he was able to incorporate his influences, transforming them into his own unique vision. From the late ?60?s, his studio became a hub, a meeting place for many of London?s vibrant artists (Hockney, Kemp, Westwood, McLaren) and he was able to connect with punk, just as much as with ?high art?. Although well recognised as an artist in his own country and in his own time, the British cinema shunned him possibly because he made quality films at a fraction of their budget, and expanded British cinema without their sanction. But this is also a testament to an artist who was driven by a need to create, not by a need to be accepted in the ?right? circles. His films are a record of the spirit of a time when his fellow collaborators - Swinton in particular - were enthused and inspired by a drive to create something unique, undictated to, fermenting their own rules.
There is a brief and enlightening snippet in the documentary where a liberal MP states during the Thatcher reign:
?The measure of a Nation is the amount of freedom it affords creative intelligence.?
Jarman himself, comes across as self depreciating, almost taking himself for granted, yet never falsely modest, not afraid to admit what he doesn?t know, not afraid to reveal how he works....not afraid. He created films (using super 8) at a time when the gay scene was at its most vibrant. His films are without ?gay apology?, are beautifully homoerotic, violent at times. He was diagnosed with AIDS in 1986, a time when the illness had only just been named, becoming one of the first well known artists to publicly declare their HIV status.
I left the cinema well informed and saddened at the untimely passing of this enlightened human being. My appetite has been fully whetted to pursue viewings of his films wherever/whenever I can.