The Tempest Film Details
Overview: Banished to a forsaken island, the Right Duke of Milan and Sorcerer Prospero gets the chance to take his revenge on the King of Naples with the assistance of his airy spirit-servant, Ariel.
Review: No one can say they don’t know Shakespeare’s most mysterious play, The Tempest. But no one can say they understand it because it is not done to be understood but only interpreted and that’s exactly what Derek Jarman does with it. And his interpretation is that a labyrinth if not a maze in which we are supposed to get lost. We sure have an island and two people, father and daughter, Prospero and Miranda, marooned on it. We then have a tempest that brings to the island the brother, Antonio, of this father who unseated him as Duke of Milan with the help of Alonso, the father of Ferdinand, all marooned on the island by the tempest. In fact Alonso was the plotter who managed to get Prospero off the throne of Milan and got him and his daughter marooned. That is called a coup d’état or a putsch. The object of the tempest is thus simple: to bring Ferdinand and Miranda together to get them married, Prospero’s vengeance in a way on Alonso. But it is not a play about a vengeance and Derek Jarman puts a lot of other elements forward to amplify other levels of meaning. Everyone is waiting for Caliban, the perverted and twisted “slave” who is an inept son of a witch. He is obnoxious as expected. Everyone is waiting for Ariel, the spirit that is used by Prospero to make the tempest happen and he is what we expect, a magical master of ceremonies. He brings Ferdinand and Miranda together. He more or less loses all the others on the island for Prospero to have enough time for his plan. And then he brings them to the castle in due time to be obliged to endorse the wedding. But that still is not the meaning Derek Jarman wants us to see. He uses his camera again as a painter’s brush and he is able to bring up all kinds of fantastic events and artificial situations, including a grand ball for the celebration of the wedding. But we know Derek Jarman does not believe in miracles. He is making a film, and telling us a story and he wants us to know that the plot and the vengeance and even the marriage are nothing really interesting. What is interesting is that life is always the same and it all ends with a feast, with some dances and with a song. And there he pushes his imagination to extreme anachronistic and iconoclastic antics. The ball is in fact an all male ballet of modern sailors in their nice uniforms obviously mimicking love in male couples for the wedding of a man and a woman. And Derek Jarman crowns this obvious gay scene with the black singer Elisabeth Welch singing “Stormy Weather” surrounded by all these sailors and their love multiple pas-de-deux. And this time it is no longer a hint, it is a direct message of love from Derek Jarman to whoever, to any man he is missing right now: “Don’t know why there’s no sun up in the sky Stormy weather Since my man and I ain’t together, Keeps rainin’ all the time” And here Derek Jarman turned the Tempest around and it became a song or a prayer about impossible love, about separation, about longing for love that cannot come because of the “stormy weather” and Derek Jarman makes it a gay manifesto, and he probably was absolutely conscious of what he was doing. He was hijacking Shakespeare’s play from a simple straight meaning to a more complicated gay signification. But he did that too with Shakespeare’s sonnets in another film, The Angelic Conversation. Shakespeare is easy at that game because his love sonnets, his love poetry are always so perfect that you could project yourself into the sonnet and be in love with the young man whose beauty Shakespeare is singing. Even the famous sonnet of the pilgrims in Romeo and Juliet can be interpreted in any orientation possible since it is a dialogue between one “I” and another “I” kissing with their hands and praying with their lips. But we cannot stay on that colorful and slightly sad note. Derek Jarman leaves the play with a last vision of the same palace, the same hall where the wedding feast has just come to an end. But this palace is back to the state of total unkempt abandon that goes along with the emptiness it now has since everyone has left on the ship on the following morning. And Ariel is there totally forlorn since he is no longer needed in the civilized world of Naples or Milan. But Derek Jarman adds one more touch. Prospero is till there too, unable to go because Ariel is his lover, he is in love with Ariel and he cannot go away from him, even in the stormy weather we know. That’s the very sad moment of this interpretation of the play: love is for everyone else when you are gay, because then gay love can only be found on a desert island on which you are marooned once and for all, and your gay love will be for a spirit, a phantom. Your love will be nothing but an illusion for an illusionary character that only exists in your mind. That’s the sad way of looking at this film. You can always look at it with modern eyes and say that after all that was the past and now gay lovers can kiss on public benches and in parks and commons. Dogs will not bark any more, at least we can hope so. Dr Jacques COULARDEAU
Country: United Kingdom
Duration: 95 min
Genre: Drama, Fantasy
Also known as: A Tempestade,Τρικυμία,A vihar,Audra,Burza,The Tempest,Der Sturm – The Tempest,Буря,テンペスト（1979）,La tempête,Trikymia