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A film with no spoken dialogue, just follows the music and lyrics of Benjamin Britten's "War Requiem, which include WWI soldier poet Wilfred Owen's poems reflecting the war's horrors. It shows the story of an Englishman soldier (Wilfred Owen) and a nurse (his bride) during World War I. It also includes actual footage of contemporary wars (WWII, Vietnam, Angola, etc.) Written by
Michel Rudoy <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Derek Jarman was the infant terrible of British cinema in the 1970s with his provocative films Jubilee and Sebastiane, the latter having a costume budget of £20!
In the 1980s thanks to funding from Channel Four Films he flourished by making low budget films of varying quality in rapid succession. By this time he was getting more accepted by critics and some elements of the public but by now he was also diagnosed as HIV+.
War Requiem was partly funded by the BBC, a collaboration of music of Benjamin Britten (War Requiem) with images of war and conflict. Some of the scenes are recreated and dramatised whereas other scenes have been obtained from the Imperial War Museum. There is also poetry of Wilfrid Owen who is depicted in this film by the actor Nathaniel Parker.
The film also has Tilda Swinton and Laurence Olivier in the opening scenes. In a sense looking at it now its the passing of the torch from one generation to the next. This was Olivier's final film and it was with a future Oscar winner Swinton.
The film was to have no dialogue but once Olivier agreed to play the 'Old Soldier,' Jarman realised that he might as well give the legend some dialogue and he recites a poem from Wilfred Owen.
How successful the film is depends on your mileage as to whether you are a Jarman fan, like Opera or appreciate art-house cinema. The dramatised scenes are interesting but not wholly successful but they are beautifully lit and demonstrates what Jarman can do on a low budget. It helps that along with Swinton, Parker we have a young Sean Bean playing a German soldier.
However the inclusion of the old documentary footage is less successful as it just makes the film drag. You feel that you are just watching old film with music and some of its not very interesting although Jarman did also include footage of modern wars as well including Vietnam, Falklands and the Afghan war with Russia of the 1980s.
Still War Requiem is challenging, provocative, arty and displays the talents of a unique voice in British cinema.
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