Her Majesty wishes to have knowledge, so her whitehatted sorcerer summons the angel Ariel. This is awesome, and is the last awesome thing that will happen in the film, which jumps to present-day artpunk, deteriorating into campy self-satisfied in-jokes as the novelty wears off and it stretches painfully to feature length.
Jarman’s second feature after a decade of shorts costars Adam Ant, who lip-sync-fronts a live band. One of the Bowie-wannabe youth is Nell Campbell who somehow specialized in maximalist rock films, also appearing in Rocky Horror and The Wall and Lisztomania. A spirit named Ariel and an actor named Orlando seem to productively predict future, better films.
My first Jarman movie, and it’s a proper narrative bio-pic, full of painting and poetry and light. Clear dialogue from a superb group of actors. I did wonder about the 17th century historical accuracy of a few lines – I try not to think about such things, but fortunately Jarman sent the signal to stop worrying when a character pulled out a solar-powered calculator halfway in.
Jarman’s fifth feature, and from the descriptions of the others, this sounds like one of his more conventional movies. Older Caravaggio and his mute assistant and Tilda would become Jarman regulars.
Caravaggio Nigel Terry, who’d played King Arthur in Excalibur:
Assistant and adopted son Jerusaleme: Spencer Leigh
Lover of the boxer and Caravaggio, in her feature debut, Tilda Swinton:
Roustabout boxer Sean Bean, who may have murdered pregnant Tilda:
Young Caravaggio: Dexter Fletcher would go on to direct fellow bio-pic Rocketman.
Cardinal Michael Gough, who encourages all this: