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on 18 March 2017
The import blu ray is the uncensored version of this film but has no extras whatsoever (and is region A locked): the picture quality is limited by the original low budget film and the print is a bit dirty. The poor UK DVD is taken from an antiquated 1980s version shown on Channel 4. Apart from being a very poor video master by modern standards, Channel 4 reframed one scene to remove the notorious ‘excited’ male shot. So don’t blame the BBFC: they passed it uncensored when orignally submitted for cinema release.
This is a very experimental film and as such has strengths and weaknesses. The opening Rome based scene is outrageous and successful before the ‘action’ moves to a desert location. Thereafter we are treated to some beautiful academy ratio photography and ambient music by Brian Eno. Unfortunately Derek Jarman’s ability to deliver a coherent narrative is poor. In one scene Sebastian is tied up and whipped severely and told he will not be released until he agrees to fight. The very next scene he is back with the rest of the men in their dorm having his back treated. Then the scene immediately after that has him outside with not a scratch on his recently whipped back! The film also gets bogged down in its homo eroticism with some scenes that seem to serve no real function save as male eye candy. It seems to be a film in search of a coherent script and better pacing: as it is its 85 minutes run time feels much longer. Jarman’s later version of ‘The Tempest’ is far better as he has a good story to work from and his obvious skills are allowed to be much more successfully displayed.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 8 August 2015
Having been impressed by Derek Jarman’s ‘Caravaggio’ and also being aware of his earlier work as production designer on Ken Russell’s ‘The Devils’, I decided to work my way through Jarman’s films one by one, starting with this first film, ‘Sebastiane’ (1976). Despite being spoken in Latin with subtitles, I was well impressed with its naturalness and spontaneity. There are lots of shots that are of the moment where nothing is said. (But the effect of some of the poetic lines are lost in wooden delivery by certain actors.)

It seems Jarman started as he meant to go on, with an unrestricted sexual atmosphere but without the bawdiness that can sometimes inhibit the grace that might be found in the films of Ken Russell. For instance, the opening scene (the only studio shot) features a party in the palace of the emperor Diocletian where a clownish male dancer is surrounded by others each bearing an extended phallus. We can laugh but Jarman refuses to ornament the scene further.

Instead the rest of the film was shot on the island of Sardinia in the sunny Mediterranean, where Sebastiane (Leonardo Treviglio) has been exiled and where any lewdness is filmed in context and not exploited for effect. Near-naked and naked men practice their fighting in the sunshine; play in the waters; ride horses; lounge in the shade; lie in the sun; play discus on the beach; relax in the sauna. They kiss, cuddle, and cavort; they fight, hunt and sharpen their weapons. There is no grand production design here; rather, an easy naturalism. It must be one of the least intense movies in my DVD collection.

Meanwhile, in contrast, Sebastiane the Christian is subjected to the cruel tortures of Severus (Barney James), the blond commanding officer of the small group of Roman soldiers posted to oversee the exiles. Sebastiane must also put up with the gibes of fellow-exile and bore, Max (Neil Kennedy), whose advances are refused.

There is some arresting camerawork, such as the pastoral scene with Samid the goatherd or the mottled light of the sun reflected in the waves. And one scene in particular is striking: Sebastiane is still trussed up after having been flogged. The camera looks down over him in the darkening twilight so that we hardly see that he is there. Meanwhile pigs scavenge at his feet. Yet there is also some poor framing with heads of soldiers stationed on the tower cut off.

My DVD has 4:3 perspective. Was it ever shot in widescreen? The final ten minutes featuring Sebastiane’s execution, the subject of so many beautiful works of art, would certainly have benefited from such an angle. But the film is certainly best seen more than once to fully appreciate Jarman’s film-making gifts.

My disc has an extra, a wide-ranging forty-minute interview Jarman gave to Jeremy Isaacs in 1993. Despite being faced with some strange questions, Jarman is full of life and humour. Of ‘Sebastiane’, he thought it “a great muddle … a sort of exploration,” heavily reliant on the skills of others. Well, this “great muddle” is also a film of striking originality and boded well for the future.
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on 24 July 2016
Two stars for cinematography and artistry. That's it. Most of the acting - as one reviewer says - is wooden and rather stereotyped. The Latin dialogue is admittedly unusual but (at the risk of being pedantic) it is frequently inaccurate. The Roman legionaries appear as if on holiday with a little 'training' put in as an afterthought. It just isn't gritty enough, and Sebastiane (or rather Sebastianus) is a little too prissy and passive. For anyone who admires the nudity of the male form and is not aware of the absolute lack of inhibition in those days a feast awaits them. As an historical feature - forget it.
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on 27 January 2018
skittered around the subject and not very sexy or even tantalising
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on 11 September 2013
I bought this film as I can remeber someone saying years ago it was a vary good film but after watching the film I noticed it was'nt the full film there must be 10 min cut from it so yes it was a good film but would have preferd the full version.
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on 21 October 2017
Great film, the year of my birth
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on 26 April 2014
Most definitely in every possible way. A must have.

This is Derek Jarman at his very best. No other director can compete with him. This was his debut as a director, making him his first cult classic
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on 21 February 2017
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on 2 January 2015
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on 9 July 2013
This film is well worth watching for historical interest, aswell as graphic homoerotica. I recommend the fantastic role Barney James has in this movie. I have watched rather boring French versions of the same title before but rate this version 100%.
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