King Edward II and Piers Gaveston are draped over each other in thick flannels, worn as throw blankets. They are grinning at each other, pressed cheek to cheek, despite the abundance of space in the room. They listen contently to a private poetry reading, their eyes glistening with adoration for each other’s artistic passions. The royal court enters. Gaveston is handed an order to be exiled. The king’s lover must leave his arms. We are watching the beginnings of Edward’s downfall.
This moment in Edward II, marks the first push of power his court took over him after he had been galavanting with Gaveston, played by Andrew Tiernan. It makes Edward, played by Steven Waddington, flare his passion and try to stand up against his oppressing court.
OVID.tv Presents Queer Representation
This queer love story, which can seem like such a modern idea, was actually written in 1604 by playwright Christopher Marlowe. The movie, produced in 1991, is based on his play by the same name. Chronicled in the performances is Edward’s struggle to balance his overpowering desire for Gaveston with the duties of his royal court and his fight against queer oppression when his love is persecuted by the church and military.
Despite its original publishing date, the script does not demonize the gay love story, but rather empathizes with it. The good and the bad of their love are both shown. On one hand, Edward shirks his royal duties and brushes off the loneliness of his wife. On the other, tender lips caress smile-creased cheeks, wet tongues circle stimulated nipples and romance and sexuality blend harmoniously in this couple.
Black and White Contrasts: Harmony vs. Dissonance
Tilda Swinton graces the screen in soft eye makeup, glittering jewels and billowing gowns as Edward’s forgotten wife. She’s almost pitiable. Almost, because we see her streak of passion in a ravenous bid for power over her husband, which brings her out of a quiet shell, where she waited for so long, hungry for attention.
All these displays of passion are starkly outlined by a set of crude concrete walls, illuminated by sharp lights and deep shadows — and not much else. We feel like we are inside an unfinished, abandoned construction zone This minimalist approach, in this writer’s opinion, is an elegantly simple frame around complex acting. Even though the set includes a mixed bag of contemporary costumes and furniture, along with decor of early fourteenth century England — when and where the king actually lived — the castle is entirely made up of bare, towering walls.
To See or Not to See
Anyone who hates trying to follow Shakespearean-esque language should steer clear of this film. And, anyone who does not want to sit through an hour and a half of occasional bloody violence and exposed genitalia should also not attempt charting these waters. But for the lover of the drama that comes with passionate romance, and for the wide-eyed viewer that can’t take their eyes off of a bloody car wreck, or for the soap opera addict who is looking to fit just a few more passion-driven face slaps in their day, this film is ideal.
Visit the OVID.tv website to view EDWARD II.
Steven Waddington as Edward II
Tilda Swinton as Isabella
Andrew Tiernan as Piers Gaveston
Nigel Terry as Mortimer
John Lynch as Spencer
Directed by Derek Jarman
Produced by Steve Clark-Hall,
Screenplay by Ken Butler,
Images courtesy of Ovid.tv
About the Author:
Summer Hoagland-Abernathy is a Columbia College Chicago senior, working toward a double B.A. in journalism and playwriting. Her two passions coalesce in her love for theatre review, but when she's not writing, she can be spotted with a mug of chocolate milk in her hand and her hair piled high in a scrunchie, attempting to organize get-togethers with family, friends and her beloved. And if that doesn't help, look for the woman with a background in martial arts, who seems to be kicking the air for no apparent reason.