a film by Derek Jarman
1985 | 78 mins | UK
›› The Angelic Conversation
a celebration of homosexual love and the beauty of youth
The Angelic Conversation by Derek Jarman Frustrated by endless battles to secure funding for his pet-project Caravaggio, Derek Jarman returned to the medium that he held most dear, namely Super-8. Then again, he had never really been away from such, given that with the most minimal of capital, let alone cast and crew, he could shoot whatever and whenever he liked and screen the results later that night for all to see. Such home movies had been part of his life since the late '60s and now he returned to them, with the Dorset coast and the Somerset countryside, amongst other locations including reservoirs in West London, becoming the backdrop to his latest work.

Yet it was around this time that Channel 4 had commissioned Peter Greenaway to create a television version of one of Dante's cantos. Jarman, furious at having been seemingly passed over, hit back with the idea of creating a project based on Shakespeare's sonnets, words that are clearly open to homoerotic interpretation. Whilst the project came to nothing, the idea stayed in his mind to surface as the perfect bridge between the sound and vision of what became The Angelic Conversation.

The Angelic Conversation by Derek Jarman For freed from the confines of a script, Jarman was at ease to experiment with light, mirrors and reflections, shooting the footage slow and projecting it even slower. At times in colour, at times almost monochrome, often grainy, frequently dazzling, here was Jarman rejoicing in Super-8 and loving every minute of it. The result, by no surprise, is gay to the core. For here scenes of male wrestling merge seamlessly with shots of two young men caressing each other in loving embrace. Content to let his camera linger on a young man swimming, we watch as footage fills the screen of two youths kissing each other, time and time again, nested poetic fashion between smoke-filled horizons and barren landscapes.

Washed down with the soothing vocal tones of Dame Judi Dench reciting the words of the Bard himself, coupled with a soundtrack as much at home with the Coils 'How to Destroy Angels' as that of the music of Benjamin Britten, a reference to the composer that would surface in feature length duration in years to follow, perhaps it is of no surprise that The Angelic Conversation would come to mark the film that Jarman would later cite as his 'most cherished work.'

For this is Jarman's celebration of homosexual love and the beauty of youth. Yet it equally remains a work that details his on-going unease with the traditional film narrative and consequently I dare say for some, may make for difficult viewing.
available on DVD as part of the British Film Institute catalogue
starring: Paul Reynolds, Philip Williamson, Dave Baby, Timothy Burke, Simon Costin, Christopher Hobbs,
Philip MacDonald, Toby Mott, Steve Radnall, Robert Sharp, Tony Wood
Shakespeare's Sonnets read by Dame Judi Dench
Copyright 2007 David Hall - www.gaycelluloid.com.
archive reference #004
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