Dir: Derek Jarman, 1978. Starring: J. Runacre, R. O’Brian, D. Brandon, T. Wilcox, Jordan, J. Birkett. Cult/Gay Cinema.

Jubilee is like a savage Shakespearian play where the past and present are joined in a marriage of destruction; a pas de deux of chaos.

Queen Elizabeth I (Jenny Runacre) is given a gateway by her Lord, John Dee (Richard O’Brian). With his powers he manifests the angel Ariel (David Brandon) who is able to take her from the past into the future in order for her to see the outcome of a world overturned by an absence of rulers and order. Throughout her journey, he acts as a sort of Greek chorus, yielding actions and prophesying bleak ends.

In the modern world, the plot circulates around a group that symbolizes a new sense of royalty. The group, who are actually more like a gang, live in an over-stimulating warehouse commune. Most of their pastimes consist of anarchic acts of rebellion and mischief, the extremes of such proving to be fatal. Ennui lends to murder and the luring of victims into their lifestyle to either destroy their zest for life or kill them for fun. There’s Bod (also played by Jenny Runacre), who is like a modern queen, embellishing herself with a gaudy crown and dishing out stern rule when called for; Amyl Nitrate (Jordan), the group heroine who loves history and loves to re-write it even more, urging the group to transform their desires into reality; Mad (Toyah Wilcox), the ringleader in destruction and a colorful pyromaniac; Crabs (Nell Campbell), the hopeless Lolita-esque romantic; two incestuously close brothers, Angel (Ian Charleston) and Sphinx (Karl Johnson); and their French au pair turned slave, Chaos (Hermine Demoriane).

Aside from the group, the true power is held by a rich tyrant named Borgia Ginz (Jack Birkett), an entrepreneur who owns and controls the media and the music industry—two poles in which he believes the youth of Britain have been brainwashed and can now be used to do his evil bidding. My favorite line from him is, “As long as the music’s loud enough, we won’t hear the world falling apart,” followed by his demonic and jovial signature laugh. As events unfold more people are brought into their circle. The brothers Angel and Sphinx begin a love affair with a painter, Viv (Linda Spurrier), who lives almost in exile now that the arts are looked down upon in society, and a musician, The Kid (Adam Ant), is drawn in with the hopes of furthering his musical career.

In between the activities in the present world, Queen Elizabeth and her group visit the site of murder with each victim that the group takes, lingering over them in disbelief and sadness. And soon it is not only the Queen who is distraught, but the modern group as well, when members of their number become victim to the corrupt police force which only intervenes in the daily lives of others when profit is to be gained.

Now there are several aspects of this film that make it absolutely amazing. Firstly, there is the heavy use of philosophy and some very provocative concepts in terms of history. One is that art “steals the world’s energy” and therefore marks artists as dangerous—a direct concept of Plato. Another is the inevitable event that chaos will reign, or that the order in all societies will eventually lead to disorder.

Another is the camera work. From the lighting, and even the angles, everything is carefully placed and highly intrusive to each character, giving the feeling that you’re living in a time like this, but simply unaware of it. Or more like being in the past, and this horrible future is lurking out there somewhere. Lastly, the music has an electric energy, and there is even a live performance by Adam and the Ants, placed into the plot of the film by The Kid’s audition to be signed. The makeup and costumes are decadent and well thought out, and the comedy, such as a gardener who plants plastic flowers and cops who have their guns attached to lanyards, is ironic and very satisfying. All in all, this is an awesome depiction of survival of the fittest in the “war of all against all,” and the master/slave relationships that would prevail, were order be outlawed and anarchy accepted.

Posted by:
Edythe Smith
May 10, 2010 3:31pm
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