memoriam Derek Jarman
The cineastic silence
Derek Jarman had a rare fascination for Super-8 technology, unusual technique and stark themes. Proud of his eccentricity and gayness, Jarman shared his radical visions with challenging artists and musicians of his time.
Derek Jarman was born in London in 1942 and died of AIDS in 1994. Though his work was never granted huge success, his films are widely regarded as masterpieces of post-war British culture by art and film schools, but mostly disregarded by the intellectual avantgarde for their inherent radicalism. Few have recognized though that Derek Jarman has taken a lot of his inspiration from other activities as a painter, designer, mystic, expert in English history, director of pop-videos, advocate for the gay movement and, well, gardener.
Derek Jarman never had any formal training as a moviemaker. He had attended the Slade school of Fine Art and worked as a set designer and painter when he first layed his hands on a Super 8 camera. This was to happen in the studio that Jarman had moved to in 1969 - situated in an old warehouse on the Southbank of the Thames. Ironically, this studio was close to the place where Shakespeare's Globe Theatre was rebuilt decades later - the great English poet and dramatist being one of the major influences in Jarman's work.
Jarman himself describes his first Super-8 experience like this: "I moved into an old furnishing warehouse at Bankside on the river. About a year later, an American student who was in London, arrived one afternoon with a Super-8 camera and started to film the place. He lent me the camera, and this was the first film that I made. It's not edited - it's exactly the way it was made in the camera, each shot lasted for either 18 or 9 frames. I filmed photographs from a photographic album of the years before and identified one object in each photograph. Then I tried to find out where it was in the room, so maybe you can identify the objects as you see them".
This very first film, later
titled "Bankside 1971", was made only two weeks before the studio became
the victim of a new townplanning scheme. Jarman: "The studio was in fact
on the site of the Globe Theatre alongside Southwark Bridge, I think that
might amuse some people. All of this area has now been demolished, so
it's quite a hsitoric little film now".
Shakespeare's "The Tempest", according to Jarman and starring Toyah Wilcox as Miranda