the music of Benjamin Britten, the poetry of Wilfred Owen
This is, in effect, Derek Jarman on Benjamin Britten on Wilfred Owen. Or to be more precise, Derek Jarman's cinematic interpretation of Benjamin Britten's musical interpretation of the war poetry of Wilfred Owen; the noted English poet who was killed in 1918 aged twenty-five, a week prior to Armistice Day.
Narrated by Laurence Olivier, whose final work this was and with a cast heavy with those attendant at the school of Jarman, this symphony of sight and sound notably marked the first BBC Films production to play the UK cinema circuit. And yet the result whilst praised by many, was largely disowned by the man himself, who is on record as having said "it never goes through my mind that I ever made it."
Seemingly forever lost on DVD, it has subsequently been made available on Region 1 / NTSC format courtesy of the good folk at Kino International, although as to whether it equates to a lost Jarman classic OR a classic better lost, I‘ll let you decide. Promo text as under:-
"A stunning visual and serious music treat" (Variety), Derek Jarman's (Sebastiane, Jubilee) 1989 War Requiem reunites British cinema's enfant terrible with his muse Tilda Swinton (2008 Oscar® Winner for Michael Clayton) for a spectacular and moving interpretation of composer Benjamin Britten's groundbreaking 1961 orchestral masterpiece. Just as Britten combined the sacred Latin Requiem Mass with the searing unromantic war poetry of British infantry lieutenant Wilfred Owen, who was tragically killed in the final week of WWI, Jarman interprets Britten's six movements in eye-popping and heartbreaking dialogue-free tableaus illustrating war's infinite futility, sacrifice, and waste."
"War Requiem boldly combines archival footage of war's devastation with Jarman's keen and gifted eye for both the theatrical and the political as Owen, played by Nathaniel Parker, doggedly struggles to survive on the field of battle in defense of a cause rendered unjust by the human toll it takes in the trenches and on the home front. Featuring Sean Bean (The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, National Treasure) as Owen's star-crossed German counterpart, and Sir Laurence Olivier in his final screen appearance, War Requiem is a "violent, horrifying, ultimately inspiring film" that remains Derek Jarman's definitive, "eloquent, complex, and profoundly negative statement on war" (Washington Post)."