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on 31 October 2009
I saw this at the cinema on its original release, what a beautiful, dream-like film it is. Judi Dench is one of those rare actress's who can make the work of shakespeare come alive, it was listening to Judi Dench speak the sonnets in this film that finally helped me to make sense of the bard. A beautiful film made by a brilliant man, the great Derek Jarman. A fine example of his work.
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Derek Jarman at his typically edgy directing: there is a dreamy quality to the film, with its often surreal blend of music and (often) neo-brutalist imagery which does not sit well with the Shakespeare Sonnets (wonderfully read by Dame Judi Dench.)

This is my problem with the DVD: not enough Shakespeare! I suspect that means I'm not the art-film target audience Jarman had in mind, but I still feel that more of the juxtaposition between the sonnet reading representing the yearning torture of love and the visual imagery would have enhanced the experience. As it is, the filming often seems self-indulgent - which might, I suppose, be the point.
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on 2 July 2014
Young he was then and Shakespeare's Sonnets was an easy subject, even in their homosexual reading. Many sonnets are absolutely ambiguous as for the sexual orientation and it is easy to make them lean left or right.

The whole objective is to illustrate sonnets that are pure words and music. Two main characters are walking around or through, up and down, a desolate purely mineral landscape in which we only have rocks, fumes and various smokes coming out of caves. It is dirty, dusty, black and white and the two boys are dressed in some kind of formal pants and coats.

The film is the impossible story of the meeting of the two boys who desire a male contact and can't have it or have to cross all kinds of obstacles and hostility to little by little getting close to it. The first distant contact will be when they reach some ocean or sea and one is swimming. That swimming becomes extremely sensual and sexual because the second is observing and projecting himself into the water to have that liquid contact with the body he desires. In fact the director is playing with our own senses and he knows that we are voyeurs in our deepest dimension and to see someone swimming is more erotic than to see the same one naked because of the water into which the voyeur is projecting himself and hence achieving full, total intimate contact with the desired person.

Finally their desires erupt into a physical fight, naked torso against naked torso and it is this fight that turns into a love scene. They have finally found each other. They can hug each other, embrace each other, mutually caress their bodies, sleep and rest together, be two in one and one in two. Shakespeare is just punctuating the story with his sonnets.

But it is a film. So how does Derek Jarman produce the visualization of this "fight" for love in a hostile world and with a hostility that has been so deeply engraved in each man in this world that all other men are enemies that contact becomes impossible, unthinkable and yet if the film only shows that contact being built little by little, we could wonder if there is anything else in a love desire or a love need. The film does not show any other attraction but this sexual appeal.

It is true Derek Jarman shows it with great brilliance. The black and white film is perfect to show the somber world in which we are living, the somber thoughts and impulses we may be developing, and the somber reality of rejection or brutality. At times some very short color sequences are projected into our vision, essentially with flowers and they seem to represent the few moments when some satisfaction, some pleasure becomes possible. That will lead me to interpreting the use of color for the fire that assaults one or the other character from time to time as being the fire of desire, not something against which you have to fight but something that may bring you pleasure and satisfaction, and yet it burns because in this world that sort of pleasure is banned and hence it has to burn somewhere.

Actually the film has aged because the world has changed and this systematic hostility and impossibility is no longer true. It has in fact become very easy today to satisfy that desire of gay love, and that's just the point. The film does not show love but sex exclusively. Today when sex is no longer forbidden, censored, repressed, we can finally step over the hormonal dimension of human contact and develop the mental, spiritual and intellectual side of love, love seen as the contact and exchanges between two minds and not only two hormone-driven bodies. In fact physical desire becomes all the more intense when it is considered because it no longer is the only way to express one's love. Higher? Lower? It does not work like that. They are different and not at different planes. They do not have to be compared or connected.

Shakespeare says: "Sweet things turn sour," implying that beauty is always followed by death and the loss of that beauty, sour is everything that cannot last forever. But today we are not obliged to only consider the physical beauty of a person, a beauty that will pass away with age, but we can consider the everlasting or at least long-lasting mental beauty of a person and then love is eternal because it is no longer tied up to the sole body, the sole hormonal desire of our endocrine glands.

That makes the film very sad, sad that the world used to be like that . . . for us, though it still is like that in many countries in this world. We do not need to fight any more to put our hands on the arms or shoulders of our men brothers.

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on 5 March 2012
I think this is a film to treasure. It has three elements that add up to a wonderful whole. The film-making excellence of Derek Jarman, the reading by Judi Dench and the music by Coil complement each other beautifully. I can see why another reviewer found a dissonance between the sonnets and the imagery but I found that a reading of the excellent booklet that comes with the DVD helps to understand how Jarman made the choices he did. There is mystery in the choice of some images but I think one comes to such films expecting to be challenged, to find the unexpected and at times inexplicable, and to be open to new ways of perceiving how the emotions, in this case love, are portrayed and expressed. It so happens that in this instance the love is between two men but it's depiction is beautiful; only a homophobe will find something objectionable here.
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on 13 June 2015
Enjoyable if a bit dated
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on 20 August 2015
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on 11 July 2015
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on 6 September 2015
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on 5 September 2009
I can't damn believe it!! I do have seen bad movies, but this one takes the paramount price. Derek Jarman might be an artist in his own insane way, in his own "spécialisation-amploise", yet all that said, this movie sucked and irritated all the way trough and even far further. After 5 minutes I was keeping my finger firmly on the fastforward button and I kept doing it to the very end of the show. It was such a incredible crap it's unbelievable.The movie was blurry ( w.purpose, which kind,I still don't comprehend ), so I thought my LCD was laying off. One thing is for sure: the movie director must have been hallucinating, probably on LSD or something even stronger, whatever that might be. I mean- I gave the seller guys 5 star feedback without seeing the film and I still mean every single word of why I did it.The service was excellent and the delivery time almost non-existing. If my living situation was different ( I'm not enjoying solitude in the country side ), I would probably standing outside screaming out my anger and dissatisfaction and later on getting totally wasted with alcoholic beverages in order to calm my nerves and to get numb because of this so called "artistic" nonsense manure.
Regards, Marcus
P.S. I deeply urge the potential buyers of this DVD: PLEASE DO NOT, I REPEAT DO NOT SPEND YOUR BUCKS ON THIS ABSURDITY! SPEND IT ON SOMETHING ELSE,be reasonable and at least try to see the trailer first!!!The "Angelic Conversation" is not a movie, it's a Happening recorded by money hungry, paranoid, insane and disillusional Mr. Jarman
P.P.S.Goosh, I have never published a such a negative review, yet they more I think about this crappy movie ( even today ) they more upset I get.Baaad boy-think positively, Marcus!
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