The Angelic Conversation


Title by John Dee, words by William Shakespeare, narration by Judi Dench and music by Coil; Derek Jarman’s oneiric film/poem is released on DVD, along with two other works.

The BFI releases three Derek Jarman films together—Caravaggio (1986), Wittgenstein (1993) and The Angelic Conversation (1985)—all digitally restored and re-mastered for DVD and each with extensive and illuminating extra features.

The films were made with the BFI Production Board, whose aim was to foster innovation in British filmmaking, thus providing a natural home for Jarman’s artistic sensibility. These three films represent highpoints in his career and are perhaps the most enduring in their appeal and relevance to contemporary audiences.

Intense, dreamlike, and poetic, The Angelic Conversation is one of the most artistic of Derek Jarman’s films. With his painter’s eye, Jarman conjured, in a beautiful palette of light, colour and texture, an evocative and radical visualisation of Shakespeare’s love poems.

Of the 154 sonnets written by Shakespeare, most were written to an unnamed young man, commonly referred to as the Fair Youth. Here, Judi Dench’s emotive readings of 14 sonnets are coupled with ethereal sequences; figures on seashores, by streams and in colourful gardens. The disruption of these magical scenes with images of barren and threatening landscapes echoes perfectly the celebration and torment of love explored in the sonnets.

Shot on Super-8 before being transferred to 35mm film, the unique technical approach results in a striking aesthetic, with Coil’s languorous soundtrack completing the intoxicating effect.

Previously on { feuilleton }
James Bidgood
Kenneth Anger on DVD…finally
Un Chant d’Amour by Jean Genet

2 thoughts on “The Angelic Conversation”

  1. The first time I’d ever heard of Derek Jarman, was on some obscure comic artist’s website and he raved about a move called ‘In the Shadow of the Sun’ , also by Derek Jarman I believe. When I initially looked for it I found few mentions of it elsewhere. I haven’t checked on it for so long, but this roused my curiosity. Have you seen it by chance?

  2. Yes, Shadow is one of a number of films from the late 70s/early 80s that Jarman shot at very slow speed on a Super-8 camera with the image later transferred to 35mm, same as with parts of Angelic Conversation. They have a grainy, dreamlike quality which makes them more like moving paintings than films; for most filmgoers I’m sure they’d seem boring or pretentious or both. I say bollocks to the majority view, I love them.

    Shadow is one of the best as it features people engaged in strange primal rituals involving fire and mirrors and is famous for having a soundtrack by industrial noise-mongers Throbbing Gristle. Here’s hoping the BFI gets round to releasing these shorter works at some point.

Comments are closed.

Discover more from { feuilleton }

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading