The Last of England
Chariots of Fire
When asked how he felt about the fact he’d received £400,000 to make Caravaggio in 1986, and the director of Chariots of Fire, Hugh Hudson had received 4 million to make his film, Derek Jarman replied, ‘Fortunately, I’m one hundred times more intelligent than Hugh Hudson, so it doesn’t matter.’
It certainly didn’t matter as Jarman’s output, during his 20-year career, pisses from a great height on Hudson’s work. What Jarman would have made of this year’s London Olympics, with its recurring reference to Chariots of Fire, would certainly have been interesting. Yet, Jarman was never fooled by his position as an outsider, he was well aware that there ‘is a complicity between the avant-garde and the establishment, it’s symbiotic, they need each other,’ as he explained to Peter Culshaw in the NME, April, 1986.
‘..all avant-garde gestures have been appropriated by just those people they sought to undermine. Dada was conceived as a full-scale assault and now Dada sells for millions. But what people never point out about me is that I’m probably the most conservative film-maker in the country. I’m not talking about Thatcherite-radical conservatives, who are anti-traditional and destructive, and who see progress as heaven, I mean more like the conservatism of groups like the Green Party.’
The artist Caravaggio fascinated Jarman, because ‘he was the most inspired religious painter of the Middle Ages and was also a murderer.’
‘Imagine if Shakespeare had been a murderer - it would completely alter the way we see his plays. [Caravaggio] was particularly taken to heart by the Romans because he painted real people. The girl next door was Mary Magdalen. Or in Death of a Virgin he painted a well-known prostitute as a virgin. It was the equivalent of Christine Keeler being put up over the high altar at Westminster Abbey.’
Jarman felt a tremendous parallel between Caravaggio and his own life, and he believed that ‘the cinema of the product precludes individual voices…’
‘...and I think unless one can put one’s own voice into a film, then there’s an element of dishonesty in it.’
In this short interview Derek Jarman talks about his life and films, Caravaggio, The Last of England and War Requiem, taken from Spanish TV’s Metropolis from 1989.
Previously on Dangerous Minds
Bonus interview of Jarman talking about ‘Caravaggio’, after the jump…