a film by Derek Jarman
1987 | 87 mins | UK
›› The Last of England
an uncompromising indictment of life in Thatcherite Britain
The Last of England by Derek Jarman If Derek Jarman had set out to create a cinematic indictment of life in Thatcherite Britain, then this collage of Super-8 imagery is the devastating end product.

The film itself generated considerable public debate at the time of its release, with historian Norman Stone going as far as to cite it as 'sick,' an opinion that caused Jarman to defend his work through the pages of The Times. Then again, perhaps this is of no surprise, given The Last of England represents Jarman on a political high, showcasing his views on the policies of Thatcherism in a frank and controversial style. And like the feature Jubilee, it is not a pretty sight.

For this land of hope and glory is anything but, as scenes of urban squalor mix with warlike violence, as a masked gorilla army take to the streets, rounding up the innocents before shooting them dead. Only such is not the only form of shooting to be found, as a disillusioned youth gives himself a drug-induced high as a means of escaping a political wasteland, only for others to hope for a better life outside of the country of their birth, in a celluloid homage to the famous emigration painting by Ford Madox Brown. Welcome then to the last of England, Britain in a state of urban decay.

The Last of England by Derek Jarman And welcome also to a downright bleak vision of England. And yet as uncompromising a work as this is, what shocked many was not so much what was being said, but the way in which it was said. For here the soundtrack by Simon Fisher Turner is as much a part of that message, as the film itself, ranging as it does from the sound of Sarah Ferguson's wedding vows to Hitler's polemic speeches. Interspersed throughout however are the vocal tones of Nigel Terry, his cutting narrative delivering some bitter lines, including the biting remark "and all you did in the desperation was celebrate the Windsor's."

Partly filmed in an abandoned Docklands warehouse, The Last of England like his earlier work The Angelic Conversation and later piece The Garden, marked Jarman's love of the silent movie, namely Super-8 footage linked together by way of a conceptual idea, over which a soundtrack would be placed. It was the ideal medium, given it allowed Jarman to largely shoot whatever and whenever he liked. For here was Jarman rejoicing in artistic freedom and along the way, editing some of his own childhood home movies into the finished product.

Noted for its 'shears to the wedding dress' sequence, together with its 'soldier sex' scene, this in-your-face piece is a fragmented and at times disturbing feature. In short, not an easy film to watch. And yet it is everything that was Derek Jarman, given it is infused with his highly personal and political views on life. In other words, to see this, is to come closer to understanding the man behind the camera.

" On every green hill mourners stand, to weep for the last of England "
available on DVD as part of the Second Sight Films catalogue
narrative by Nigel Terry
starring: Tilda Swinton, Spencer Leigh, 'Spring' Rupert Audley, Gerrard McCarthur,
John Phillips, Gay Gaynor, Matthew Hawkins
Copyright 2007 David Hall - www.gaycelluloid.com.
archive reference #006
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