Derek Jarman: An artist who resists categorizationDerek Jarman spent his entire career, from the 1970s until his AIDS-related death in 1994, refusing to conform.
An artist who defied labels, Jarman’s films ― a retrospective of which is underway at Seoul Art Cinema ― won him acclaim, as did his painting, writing, stage and film design and gay and human-rights activism. He even filmed a number of music videos.
His first feature-length film, “Sebastiane,” which ignited a controversy because of its frank portrayal of homosexuality, violence and the martyrdom of the 4th-century Roman soldier and future saint Sebastian, established Jarman’s credentials as an experimental filmmaker. The movie is striking, both visually and because it is acted entirely in Latin with English subtitles.
In his second feature, “Jubilee,” which was filmed in 1977, Queen Elizabeth II’s Silver Jubilee year, Jarman transports the first Queen Elizabeth to a future London where anarchy and a punk ethos rule. This film has been described as an even bleaker “A Clockwork Orange.” Two years later he was back with “The Tempest,” a riveting Shakespearean adaptation, which draws on influences as diverse as Baroque art and campy musicals.
From 1979 to 1985, Jarman focused on making short films, writing and shooting much of the astounding home-movie footage that would later be edited to create “Glitterbug,” a kind of film autobiography that was released the year of his death.
His return to feature filmmaking in the ’80s saw him focus on telling the tales of gay historical figures, including the Italian Baroque artist Caravaggio and Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein.
by Park Yun-ji
“Imperial Dreams, Material Nightmares,” a retrospective of Jarman’s work, continues through Nov. 14 at Seoul Art Cinema, below ArtSonje Center in Sogyeok-dong. Call (02) 720-9782 for information.