Derek Jarman’s Jubilee is one of the most original, bold, and exciting features to have come out of Britain in the 1970s.
The year is 1578. Queen Elizabeth I is transported by an angel into the future (roughly the present), where she has ‘the shadow of the time’ revealed to her.
Observing a renegade women’s collective (a pyromaniac, a punk star, a nympho, a bent historian, etc), Her Majesty watches as the ‘ladies’ and their friends go about their picaresque misadventures – disrupting a cafe, a punk audition, a murder spree.
Through this process of disemboweling the present through the memory of the past and the anticipation of the future, Jarman unravels the nation’s social history in a way that other features haven’t even attempted.
At times, amidst the story’s violence (there are two vicious killings), black humor, and loose fire hose energy, the film – like the characters – seems to careen out of control.
Toyah Wilcox, as an over-the-edge firebug, gives the film’s finest performance, Jenny Runacre, in a demanding dual role as Elizabeth I and the leader of the collective, is marvelous. And Orlando, as the world-owning impresario Borgia Ginz, steals every scene he’s in.