Derek Jarman comes up with a provocative and challenging adaptation of Christopher Marlowe’s ed ward II, a lengthy (about four hours onstage) bio of Britain’s only acknowledged gay monarch, whose preference for his lover over his queen sparked conflict with his barons and, eventually, civil war.
Cutting the play to the bone, Jarman fashions the 16th century drama into a radical attack on antigay prejudices in contempo Brit society. Drama is staged in modern dress, with contemporary police/military uniforms for the forces of repression.
Queen Isabella, astringently played by Jarman regular Tilda Swinton, is cruelly treated in the film. Humiliated and rejected by her husband, she tries everything to win him back from his lover. The character finally turns into a raving monster who literally sucks the blood from her victims.
Jarman fails to make the film accessible to heterosexual male audiences. Pic seems to be provoking straight viewers while celebrating the play’s homosexual theme.