"Wow!, this is an amazing viewing experience, and definitely the best Derek Jarman film that I've seen. The script is based on Christopher Marlowe's equally bizarre 16th century playscript, the story of King Edward II and his love for his favorite Gaveston. Edward neglects all his princely duties of governing England so he can hang out with Gaveston and party. He also rejects the love of his wife, Queen Isabella from France. The leading nobles then conspire with Isabella to get rid of Gaveston, and eventually to depose Edward and murder him in a particularly gruesome manner.
Jarman retains the original Elizabethan language (don't worry, it's very accessible) but modernizes the setting to some extent, keeping the medieval castle, but updating the costumes and some props. Medieval and modern elements are mixed together in post-modern fashion. This is a very stylized and even symbolic production, although the story is more or less dramatically realistic. The original dialogue has been edited and shortened, in order to highlight the settings and gestures. The play is a visual and musical feast for the senses. Jarman's treatment of the play reminds me of Julie Taymor's TITUS (based on Shakespeare's Titus Andonicus) starring Anthony Hopkins and Jessica Lange.
But be forewarned, this is not for the squeamish; there is lots of male nudity and even homosexual love making, although enough is hidden to keep the "R" rating. There is also a fair amount of violence.
The play's treatment of homosexuality is very interesting and complex. In Marlowe's original playscript, the homosexual nature of the relationship between Edward and Gaveston is fairly obvious yet not completely explicit----still rather veiled according to the customs of the time; Jarman, in contrast, foregrounds the homosexuality; at the same time he doesn't idealize Edward and Gaveston to make them innocent victims. In line with the original script, Edward is portrayed as criminally negligent in his duties as King. But the nobles who depose him are also corrupted by the desire for power, so there are no clear heroes or villains here. The play, however, questions the irrational prejudice of the nobles against homosexuality.
Well worth the time and money. This play will be especially interesting for fans of Shakespeare and English Renaissance drama. Jarman truly makes Edward II accessible, interesting, and relevant for a contemporary audience."
Jarman's most accessible film, but not mainstream by any mea
Grigory's Girl | NYC | 07/14/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a very well made, interesting, and unique interpretation of Christopher Marlowe's Edward II. It is by Derek Jarman, one of the most neglected British filmmakers in history. This is best known film in the US, and while he's made better films, this one is still excellent. The first time you see the film it can be rather off putting. First of all, the characters wear contemporary clothes (even though it took place in the 14th century), and they smoke cigarettes. The film is very stylized, there are some rather heavygoing sex scenes at the beginning of the film, and there are appearances by OutRage, a British gay rights group that Jarman was a member of. Aside from the anarchorisms and the sex, it still feels like a Shakespeare play in many ways. It is interesting to note that in Mel Gibson's film Braveheart, the son of Edward Longshanks was, in fact, Edward II. In Mel's film, he was portrayed in a stereotypical, effeminate way. In Jarman's film, Edward is much more dynamic and intelligent. Jarman's portrayal, while a little idealised, is still more realistic than Gibson's film. Granted, Gibson wasn't making a film about Edward II, but it still would have been good of him to get the portrayal right. The other performances are top notch (especially Tilda Swinton as the jilted queen, and Nigel Terry as Mortimer). Annie Lennox singing "Every Time We Say Goodbye" is reminiscent of Jarman's film of The Tempest, when Elisabeth Welch sings Stormy Weather at the end. Everything in this film works. It sounds like it could go out of control and turn into a camp fest, but it never does. Well worth seeing...
Christopher Marlowe's tragedy given new and innovative voice
KerrLines | Baltimore,MD | 03/28/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"As playwright Christopher Marlowe is considered to be the first Elizabethan Tragedian, and therefore pioneer to the up and coming Shakespeare (see Shakespeare in Love for an excellent film treatment of this subject), the late Derek Jarman, Fellow of the British Film Institute for his lifelong contribution to British Cinema, can be viewed as a "pioneer" for filmmakers who dared to be unusual, visionary and quite controversial and unconventional in style and interpretation. Jarman's body of work is impressive, and breathes with the life of someone who simply must do it film his own way. For me, Jarman has become an acquired taste over the years, but a taste that lingers on the palate and goes down with absolute clarity of digestion. It was not always so!
In 1991, Jarman, and his dear friend, now Academy Award winning actress Tilda Swinton (Michael Clayton (Widescreen Edition)) along with many film associates from the BFI (Sally Potter, Terence Davies, Bill Douglas and Peter Greenaway) were revolutionary visionaries in creating art on the screen that has had an impact on many present day filmmakers who wish to be craftsmen and not tradesmen. In that year, Jarman adapted the famous late 1500's Marlowe tragedy on the life, infatuations,and fatal weaknesses and incompetence of the 1300's King Edward 2 of England, and their devastating consequences to his life and country. Marlowe, himself, a complete rebel in his day, who died a violent and bitterly early death in a tavern brawl in 1594, seemed the perfect writer for the similar Jarman to interpret on the large screen....and WHAT AN INTERPRETATION IT IS! Adapting Marlowe's play, which was itself handled with considerable liberty by subordinating historical accuracy to dramatic effect, is vivid and unforgettably stylish and downright in-your-face sexual, as WAS in fact King Edward 2, known for his love for entertainment and squander, and his chronicled loves with at least two men, Piers Gaveston and Hugh Despencer whom he bestowed lavish attention, wealth and titles to such ignobly born fellows, thus igniting the fury of the Catholic Church, the Court Nobility, and his Queen, Isabella. The play is Marlowe's words, but the rendering is all Jarman, as Jarman, who was Gay himself, never shies from presenting Edward (Steven Waddington) as the tortured King, in a most disagreeable alliance/marriage (as was the custom!) with Isabella (Swinton) and his lust, love and adoration for his lover, Gaveston (Andrew Tiernan) and later Despencer (John Lynch). Isabella also has HER lover, Mortimer (Nigel Terry), who along with Isabella seeks to rule the realm through Edward and Isabella's son the young puppet, Edward 3.
Now that is the story, and those are the historical events.....BUT this is a Derek Jarman film, and history is shown to us in a way that is so provocative, from blatant sexual imagery, unconventional costuming that places the play as a commentary on Margaret Thatcher's Conservative late 1980's England, and minimalist scenery, designed by Christopher Hobbs (a great favorite of The British Film Institute) to evoke the barrenness of an Age where Church and Nobility ruled, and where pleasure and desire, though enjoyed to the hilt by all, is attacked and condemned in the form of homosexuality, and used as the excuse for deposing a recklessly viewed Monarch.
Often, I am entranced with historical Period Pieces, but often find that the retelling of said events can be rather dry and unmemorable. Not so with Jarman's film whose sense of injustice at how his own sexuality is eschewed is mesmerizingly transferred to the big screen with imagery that explodes graphically before your eyes. In fact, the imagery was so graphic and innovative that the film lingered in my emotions and not simply in my intellect! Not one ounce of Marlowe's play of lust and betrayal is lost, and IMO, Marlowe's rebel spirit which infuses his work, is best served by Jarman's understanding of Marlowe's intent on explaining the life of the tortured King and Marlowe's intense hatred for the nobility.
This is, too say the least, a film that will be lost on some, and perhaps even disdained. I have come to savour every morsel of this film as a genuine and first-rate work of art, as I have with other of Jarman's well known Derek Jarman 4-DVD Boxset (Blue , Caravaggio , The Angelic Conversation , Edward II) [ NON-USA FORMAT, PAL, Reg.2 Import - Italy ] as well as The Last of England, Wittgenstein [ NON-USA FORMAT, PAL, Reg.2 Import - Spain ] and The Garden [ NON-USA FORMAT, PAL, Reg.2 Import - Great Britain ].
For anyone who craves something new from their movies, try Derek Jarman and other filmmakers such as Terence Davies (The Neon Bible) who, as Knighted Fellows of The British Cinema, sought and still seek to revolutionize and breathe new life and ideas into cinema today!"
The Text Not The Subtext Is The Key.
Chip Kaufmann | Asheville, N.C. United States | 04/14/2010
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Being one of only two movies (as opposed to stage productions) based on the works of Christopher Marlowe (the other is the Richard Burton 1967 DOCTOR FAUSTUS), Derek Jarman's 1991 film of EDWARD II would be important for that reason alone. However there is more to the film than that. It's not only what meets the eye but what meets the ear that really counts. Like most of his films, Jarman shot EDWARD II on a shoestring and like many a theatre director turned filmmaker, he follows the time honored tradition of re-interpreting a classic play for the screen. The minimal settings and modern costumes, which were partially budgetary concerns, take some getting used to as does the overtly gay overtone that Jarman brings out which is not for the easily offended even though it can clearly be found in Marlowe's text. However, if you can get past that, then this EDWARD II can be a surprisingly rich and rewarding experience especially on repeated viewings.
After I have watched a film version of a Shakespeare play or in this case Marlowe, I like to run it through my sound system without the picture and just listen to the words and how the actors speak them. The cast for EDWARD II is very strong and their theatrical background comes through with most of Marlowe's lines. Shakespeare was regarded as a playwright when he died in 1616 while Marlowe was considered a poet when he was murdered in 1593. There is poetry in Marlowe's blank verse that even Shakespeare couldn't aspire to although he was the better writer overall. But I digress. With a trio of strong performances from Stephen Waddington, Tilda Swinton, and Nigel Terry, this version of EDWARD II has a raw power that is accentuated by Jarman's visuals and Simon Fisher-Turner's music. Forget the anachronisms like Annie Lennox or the appearance of Queer Nation and focus on the story of a flawed individual who like Othello, "loved not wisely, but too well"."
Less Than Great Expectations!!
Shaun Lowe | Sydney, Australia. | 01/24/2010
(1 out of 5 stars)
"My fault, I guess: I knew it was a Derek Jarman film, (usually a bit hit and miss) and I knew it was a film of a play by Christopher Marlowe, (B-grade Shakespeare). Unfortunately Edward II was made during that beloved '80's fad, when they chose miss-matched costumes and sets from historical periods that supposedly suited individual characters and situations. Usually a ruse to make tired old productions seem more 'hip' and relevant. (It would seem that no more worthy material has been written since Elizabethan times, so we have to keep flogging the old stuff to death!) In this case, the selection of various 20th century costumes generally served to reinforce the essence of each character, and created images which are easily recognised by the modern T.V. and movie audience. However, the choice of sets was clearly influenced completely by more mundane budgetary concerns. A strong cast was totally let down by the director's inability to translate the original play from the stage, to a screen format. The cardboard sets would have been drab and claustrophobic even in a theatre. No effort was made to open the production out by using the cinematic tricks and locations that a modern-day audience expects. At least the D.V.D. viewer can fall asleep in the privacy and comfort of their own home, without the embarassment that theatre-goers might have endured! The historical accuracy was always going to be limited by the source material, but thanks to Jarman's format, lack of locations etc., I learned no more about Edward II, or even the later era of Shakespeare, than I have from researching books and the internet. As is often the case, a dramatic and interesting true subject, although treated badly, will now be left alone by other film-makers, with the viewing public ultimately the poorer because of Derek Jarman's effort."