Drama / History / Romance
Drama / History / Romance
In this Derek Jarman version of Christopher Marlowe's Elizabethan drama, in modern costumes and settings, Plantagenet king Edward II hands the power-craving nobility the perfect excuse by taking as lover besides his diplomatic wife, the French princess Isabel, not an acceptable lady at court but the ambitious Piers Gaveston, who uses his favor in bed even to wield political influence - the stage is set for a palace revolt which sends the gay pair from the throne to a terminal torture dungeon.
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June 15, 2018 at 01:15 PM
Edward II makes a brilliant hodge-podge of history by vaulting a sixteenth century play about a fourteenth century English king onto a dark, abstract twentieth century stage. Iconoclastic, yes; anachronistic, yes; imbecilic, no. While on the page Marlowe's poetry speaks for itself, in director Derek Jarman's hands it provides a counterpoint to the film's daring, elegant, eloquent visuals. King Edward and his lover, Piers Gaveston, are attacked by the raving heteronormative toffs for their homosexuality and Gaveston's less-than-aristocratic background. Great moments include a cameo by Annie Lennox and a bull's-eye by Tilda Swinton.
Derek Jarman's Greatest Film
Before his AIDS-related death in 1994, English filmmaker Derek Jarman (also an acclaimed painter and writer whose introduction to film was working as a set designer for Ken Russell) created a large and aggressively experimental body of work, developing a vivid personal style notable for its' political ferocity and its' unbelievable visual lushness. By the time EDWARD II appeared, Jarman had honed his innovative mix of surrealism, mind-bending shifts in perspective, and a well-articulated take on the political implications of gay liberation into a vision that at once placed him in the vanguard of late 20th century independent filmmakers, while simultaneously establishing him as one of the most uncompromising activist/artists to have never been described or marketed as such.
EDWARD II very loosely adapted from a 500-year-old Christopher Marlowe play about the doomed, deposed (and gay) English king is all of the above combining in one brilliant flash, and Jarman was aware of the irony built into the fact that this very challenging, explosive tour-de-force of a film - shot on a shoestring budget - brought him closer to 'mainstream' success than anyone (including Jarman) would've ever believed possible. Maintaining much of Marlowe's original play and the Old English dialog while visually placing the story in the present day (the sets are minimalistic, with contemporary clothing and set design), Jarman attempts to locate with surgical precision - the origins of violent, contemporary homophobia, and contemporary class bigotry as well (Edward's lover was a peasant, so the implications of social-class transgression are also integral to the story) in historic precedents.
Jarman's art background contributes to the stunning visual effect, and he had worked with most of the cast before, lending the film an effective intimacy things never seem too avant-garde, and the righteous sense of corrosive rage seen here (this is one of the angriest, most politically enraged films I've ever seen) essential to this story never veers off target.
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Elegantly filmed minor masterwork.
This beautifully filmed, strangely erotic minor masterwork is Derek Jarman at his best. Dark and brooding, Jarman draws the viewer into the world of medieval England while still being his unusual, original self. Homoerotic without being blatant about its pro-gay leanings, Jarman tells a story of doomed love in a time where certain loves were life threatening.