Edward II (1991)

DEREK JARMAN

Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BB.5

United Kingdom, 1991.  British Screen Productions, , Working Title Films, Uplink.  Screenplay by Derek Jarman, , , based on the play by .  Cinematography by .  Produced by , .  Music by .  Production Design by .  Costume Design by .  Film Editing by .  

Unique visual sumptuousness aside, this dry adaptation of Christopher Marlowe’s popular play leaves a lot to be desired.  is excellent as the title character, a gay monarch of 12th century England whose passion for life couldn’t make him tough enough to rule the country against the conniving machinations of the evil Mortimer () and the jealousy of his disappointed wife (Tilda Swinton).  This was among director Derek Jarman’s last films, and is certainly the most narrative-friendly of all his works.  He even turns the last third of the story into an allegory for the gay rights movement of the last decade, an apt comparison considering how modern the play still feels.  The sets are mostly bare rooms with minimal furniture, allowing Sandy Powell’s stunning costume designs to stand completely out. It’s not as effective a love story as it should be, mostly because of ‘s thoroughly unlikable performance as the unsympathetic Gaveston, Edward’s lover; Swinton, however, is compelling, and steals every shot she’s in.

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