Director: Derek Jarman
Jarman has once again created a lush and visually stunning canvas, that explores the life and key ideologies of one of this century's most influential philosophers, Ludwig Wittgenstein. This latest addition to a constantly quirky and inspiring oevure, displays the sharper wit of Jarmen's earlier work (Caravaggio) giving Wittgenstein a lighter touch, a more sophisticated sense of the absurd than, say, Edward II.
The minimalist cinematic framework is dressed with vibrant costumes, lighting and colour. "And the Black: The black annihilates the decorative and concentrates, so my characters shine in it like red dwarfs and green giants. Yellow lines and blue stars." And the characters do indeed shine. Karl Johnson's superb performance as the tortured, repressed and intensely brilliant thinker (who also loved Carmen Miranda and Betty Hutton musicals), is played on the knife edge of genius and pathos, with both satirical and surrealist humour in full measure. Tilda Swinton has exquisite poise as the outrageously flamboyant Lady Ottoline Morrell, mistress of worldly-wise but patronising Bertrand Russell.
Jarman and co-writer, Oxford academic and literary theorist Terry Eagleton together combine a realist approach, and a more adventurous experimental form - weaving quotes from Wittgenstein into lucid, imaginary material. The subtext (this is a Jarman film) can also be read as an allegory for HIV-positivity, with Russell's worries about Wittgenstein "infecting too many young men (with his teachings)."
The film is a tour de force. highly stylised, anachronistic, inventive and amusing, everything one hopes for in a feature by Jarman, and, this time round, receives.