Wednesday, November 21, 2012



 1987, UK — 88 minutes, color and black & white

The Last of England is not as manipulative as a conventional feature; you know – jump here, be frightened here, laugh.... Apart from being stuck with my film for 85 minutes, my audiences have much greater freedom to interpret what they are seeing, and because of the pace, to think about it. I have my own ideas but they are not the beginning or the end.... I learn an immense amount from audiences. I can go backwards and forwards across a a shot 30 times and then see the film another 20 or 30 times and still miss things. For me the voice of the audience is interpretive, teaching me what I have done. I don't work for a passive audience, I want an active audience.... In any case audiences are much more adventurous than is given credit   - DEREK JARMAN 

The last of England by Derek Jarman  is a complex essay on celluloid. A chaos, a celebration , an experience of birth , an experience of death and destruction , It's an inward journey within our postmodern existence. Jarman carries the legacy of the " howls " of the Beat generation and we listen to those cult poetic expressions as a narrative commentary as he invokes Allen Ginsberg :

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by
madness, starving hysterical naked,
dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn
looking for an angry fix

And we spectators start delving deep into memory, digging up the world's past. The film operates within the two levels of experience and memories. The binaries of personal and collective, Nation State and world politics , home movies ( e.g some super 8 footages recorded by his family , where he is seen as a kid ) and stylized sets  (e.g a very stylized theatrical presentation of Shakespeare's much famous " The Tempest " ) are interwoven with dreams and memories. The sequences are restless and  dreamlike and they exert a hypnotic stance on its spectators. It travels back and forth between the past and the present , Jarman's childhood and  youth , Jarman's family home videos , which serve a very major role in the film.The film travels almost seamlessly within the territory of dream and dream like sequences. Some moments of destruction ( e.g demolition of big apartments , war footages  ) create a sense of nightmarish atmosphere though , again somewhat inevitable for dreams.

He talks about England . He reinvents the history, the history of post-war trauma but ends up being tormented in great pain with the generations' frustration. Likewise , the tale of England , as the film suggests , does fail to limit itself within the trajectory of the history and politics of England. It spreads , as the film progresses and crosses the boundary of a Nation State and reaches everywhere. In the final section , we find him constructing images of some Indian deities ( the elephant god Gnaesha )  and motifs. And we understand that Jarman has actually failed to confine himself within a definite history of England , he has been tranformed into a citizen of the world , like his predecessor T.S. Eliot. It reminds me how Eliot in his ground breaking text ' The waste land ' draws on from the vast universe of culture  which finally leads to conclude reciting from The Upanishad, the ancient Indian book of metaphysics :

London Bridge is falling down falling down falling down
Poi s'ascose nel foco che gli affina 
Quando fiam uti chelidon - O swallow swallow 
Le Prince d'Aquitaine à la tour abolie  
These fragments I have shored against my ruins
Why then Ile fit you.  Hieronymo's mad againe. 
Datta.  Dayadhvam.  Damyata. 
      Shantih shantih shantih 

The spectator immediately starts witnessing  the pervasive presence of Eliotian metaphors and images because it is inevitable. We realize that as a commentator of his age , as an artist , he is carrying the legacy of his European ancestors , Eliot , Skaespeare , Virgil , Dante.

This observation triggers me in making a connection between the Beatnic artists , Eliot and India.  The Beatles were highly influenced by the metaphysics and culture of India. Their connection with Mahesh Yogi and the great musician Ravi Shankar is a part of history now. Eliot was immensely influenced by Upanishads and Ginberg experienced an anarchic , chaotic , psychedelic celebration of youth with his Indian friends and holy mentors. It engages my thoughts. Trying to find a Freudian socio-psychoanalytical argument behind this commonality.

1 comment:

  1. I'm impressed.
    At the sametime, feel challenged.
    The question is WHY ?
    If Anamika is consistent...I