War Requiem (Great Britain, 1989):

Less concentrated in its anger and more general in its targets than his earlier The Last of England, Derek Jarman's visualization of Benjamin Britten's great symphonic lament is nevertheless a work of considerable emotional surge. Britten incorporated into the Latin text a number of poems by Wilfred Owen, a British soldier fallen a week before the end of World War I; Jarman structures the piece as a series of visions throbbing within the memories of the Old Soldier (Laurence Olivier's swan song). In wordless passages swinging from savage to ethereal, Owen (Nathaniel Parker), the Nurse (Tilda Swinton), the Unknown Soldier (Owen Teale) and the German Soldier (Sean Bean) pop up to give body to the oratory's cycle of waste, intercut with super-8 interludes and collages of battlefield bloodletting across the years. Much of the film's imagery (contorted bodies caked with mud, repellently chalked-up faces leering at autopsies, a bugle rusting in a puddle) is standard anti-war stock, but Jarman's own obsessions (including a tinselly religiosity that's no less affecting for its kitschiness) lend it force. Like his "Depuis le Jour" Aria segment, Jarman's treatment is less an illustration of music than a reaction to it, far closer to the Dziga Vertov of Three Songs of Lenin than to the MTV aesthetic of fellow Brits Alan Parker (I'm thinking of the soulless doodling of Pink Floyd: The Wall) and Julien Temple. With Nigel Terry, Patricia Hayes, and Rohan McCullough.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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