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The Garden
cast: Tilda Swinton, Roger Cook, Peter Lee-Wilson, Spencer Leigh, and Michael Gough

director: Derek Jarman

86 minutes (15) 1990 widescreen ratio 16:9
Artificial Eye DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 2/10
reviewed by John Percival
Using the looming power station and windy pebble beaches of Dungeness as a backdrop for this feature, the late Derek Jarman slapped together dreamlike sequences in an confusing attempt to question Christianity, AIDS and homosexuality. The result is a fragmented near wordless fever dream of almost breathtaking pretentiousness.

The Garden is filmed in an arty experimental surreal fashion that forces the viewer to endure a barrage of muddled images and religious references. Using a gay couple to replace Christ, director Jarman runs through pieces of the New Testament, separating each sequence with odd unintelligible drama scenes. Somewhere under amongst the celluloid mess there are important themes trying to be told: ideas about society and religion's views of homosexuality. This also includes an insight into Jarman's personal struggle with AIDS. Christ's body showing signs of lesions is an exploration of the stigma of AIDS as well as the battle with the illness.

Many of the scenes are incredibly ambiguous and, whilst trying to comprehend the seemingly 'deep' images, we are also presented with sugary camp pieces such as the Think Pink song from Funny Face. The bleakness of the Dungeness landscape with the imposing nuclear power station is incredibly intriguing. It does provide quite a uniquely bleak view against which this performance art is acted out.

Each individual scene can be hard work enough but together, and presented in this format, they are incoherent and confusing at best. It is very hard work to sit through, not because of the core themes, which are extremely important, but being force fed a torrent of stark images has a feel of brainwashing. There is also an odd sense that this fever dream is not from an ill mind but from a dying mind. While trying to interpret the ambiguous meanings of one sequence, we are thrown uncomfortably onto the next and with no obvious current; the transition can feel quite jagged. Essentially you have either to be a real fan of Derek Jarman or really in the mood for something quite unusual.

Extras on the disc include a making of documentary, a picture gallery by Liam Daniel, and biographies.
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