Queer Interiors: Derek Jarman's Carravaggio (1986) and Edward II (1992)

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Interiority is a key discursive frame for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, plus (LGBTQ+) people and a significant factor to how such individuals negotiate their identity. Consider, for instance: the personal and political statement of ‘coming out’ after being ‘in the closet’; or discussions about LGBTQ+ identity being something one is born with, as an innate interior identity; and internalised homophobia experienced by someone unable to come to terms with their sense of self. This spatial dimension to LGBTQ+ experience has been identified by theorists writing about queer theory. Diana Fuss’ informative account is pointedly titled Inside/Out (1991) and posits that to be ‘out’, to be open about one’s LGBTQ+ identity, is actually to be ‘in’, ‘inside the realm of the visible, the speakable, the culturally intelligible’ (1991, p.4). Additionally, social theorist, Wayne H. Brekhus, summarises that ‘who one is depends, in part, on where one is and when one is. Identity resides not in the individual alone, but in the interaction between the individual and his or her social environment’ (2003, p.17) Thus, critical discussion on the topic includes interiority in terms of both psychological and physical location. Analysing the films of LGBTQ+ directors provides an intriguing opportunity to experience how their interior sense of identity is externally represented in set design, costume and other aspects of the mise-en-scene. Richard Dyer (1990, pp 65-66) explains that it is logical for these films to feature a more pronounced ‘aestheticism’ precisely because of the constant requirement for the filmmakers to monitor their own ‘look’ in everyday social interactions, either to ‘pass’ as heterosexual or to highlight their queerness. This chapter will examine issues of interiority and LGBTQ+ experience in film by analysing the films of Derek Jarman, a gay filmmaker whose work demonstrates a singular visual style and a complex mixing of queer identity and queering established art film conventions, especially related to the biopic. In this respect, it is notable that Jarman began his film career as set designer on Ken Russell’s The Devils (1971). This film, as well as the director’s collaborations with production designer, Christopher Hobbs (Caravaggio [1986], The Last of England [1987] and Edward II [1991]), will be discussed to establish discursive connections between interior identity and its exterior traces in the films themselves.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationScreen Interiors: From Country Houses to Cosmic Heterotopias
EditorsPat Kirkham, Sarah A. Lichtman
PublisherBloomsbury Publishing
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9781350150591
Publication statusPublished - 11 Mar 2021

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