Derek Jarman • United Kingdom • 1990 • A fierce polemic against discrimination.
Half waking dream and half fiery polemic, The Garden was born of director Derek Jarman’s rage over continued anti-gay discrimination and the delayed response to the AIDS crisis—he had been diagnosed HIV-positive in 1988. Starring Tilda Swinton, this uniquely kaleidoscopic film shows the filmmaker’s genius at its most coruscating, making space in its breadth of vision for an over-the-top Hollywood-style musical number, nightmare images of tar-and-feather queer persecution, and footage of the particularly menacing-looking nuclear power plant that overlooks Jarman’s own garden, the point from which his film begins, and a cherished spot which he must keep tending to even as his body begins to betray him.
Writhing with sorrow and anger, and yet so vividly alive to the loveliness of being, The Garden is a baleful and beautiful epistle from the brink of beyond. The Garden premiered at Stockholm, Moscow, and Berlin, where it won an Honorable Mention.