the life and homosexual times of the noted English king
Based on the play by Christopher Marlowe, but reworked with Jarman's highly political and homoerotic pen, this classic of the New Queer Cinema movement depicts a radical rendering of the life and homosexual times of Edward II. Namely the noted English king, whose lack of responsibility to the throne, coupled with his overt affection for his male lovers, sealed his fate.
Yet by interpreting historical fact as part fiction, Jarman has turned this chapter of English history on its head and in the process delivered a work that depicts Edward II and his homosexual army of supporters, versus the ingrained homophobia of the state. Such is apt, given this feature is but a cinematic testament to a king who in the face of severe opposition from the Lords Ordainer, simply wished to share his life and thereby his kingdom with the men he loved, chiefly Piers de Gaveston and later Huge le Despenser.
Given such a backdrop, this work is, as you would expect, laced with the visual signs of homosexual expression. From the opening sequence of Gaveston and Spencer in conversation whilst two men make love behind them, to the closing footage showcasing gay men and women united in OUTRAGE against prejudice and inparticular Clause 28, this work in mixing the politics of the day with history, shouts from the pulpit that homosexuality is not a crime and certainly not one punishable by death.
Back in 1327 however and for a king - it was. Yet the scenes of brutality depicted here, including Jarman's take on the notorious murder of Edward II by way of a red-hot poker inserted into those parts in which he had taken his pleasure, contrast sharply with scenes of tenderness and inparticular Annie Lennox singing the Cole Porter classic
Every Time We Say Goodbye as the two lovers part company.
Performance wise and as you would expect, Tilda Swinton and Nigel Terry are on fine form as Queen Isabella of France and her scheming lover Lord Roger Mortimer, along the way stealing the cinematic spotlight from Andrew Tiernan as Gaveston, a man in love with the body, soul and very power of the king, as aptly played by Steven Waddington. That the
end result is highly innovative, overtly homoerotic and politically to the core, almost goes without saying, given this marks one of Derek Jarman's finest works, being a perfect example of contemporary filmmaking. Need more be said?
starring: Steven Waddington, Andrew Tiernan, Tilda Swinton, Nigel Terry, Kevin Collins, Dudley Sutton, John Lynch,
Jerome Flynn, Jody Graber with Jill Balcon, David Glover, Andrea Miller, Brian Mitchell,
Barbara Newy, John Quentin as The Chorus of Nobility