The Last of England (film)

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The Last of England
The Last of England FilmPoster.jpeg
Directed byDerek Jarman
Produced byJames Mackay
Don Boyd
Written byDerek Jarman
StarringTilda Swinton
Nigel Terry
Jonathan Phillips
Spencer Leigh
Spring - Mark Adley
Narrated byNigel Terry
Music bySimon Fisher Turner
Andy Gill
Marianne Faithfull
Mayo Thompson
Diamanda Galás
Barry Adamson
CinematographyDerek Jarman, Christopher Hughes, Richard Heslop, Cerith Wyn Evans
Edited byDerek Jarman, Peter Cartwright, Angus Cook
Release date
  • August 1987 (1987-08) (Edinburgh International Film Festival)
  • 14 February 1988 (1988-02-14) (Berlin International Film Festival)
Running time
87 min.
CountryUnited Kingdom

The Last of England is a 1987 British arthouse film directed by Derek Jarman and starring Tilda Swinton.

It is a poetic, rather than realistic, depiction of what Jarman felt was the loss of traditional English culture in the 1980s and his anger about Thatcher's England.[1] (including the formation of Section 28 Local Government Act.[2]) Declaring it a homophobic and repressive totalitarian state.[3] In 1986, Jarman was also diagnosed as HIV positive and had just finished his 'masterpiece', Caravaggio, so the film is a confluence of angry imagination.[2] It is named after The Last of England, a painting by Ford Madox Brown. The painting and the film, share themes of escape and the changing of place.[2]

The film uses a shaky hand-held camera to evoke anxiety and paranoia, and the ever-present melancholy is expressed in the extracts from poems, including T.S. Eliot's The Hollow Men and Allen Ginsberg's "Howl", which are monotonously read by narrator Nigel Terry.[3]

One of the film's most famous scenes is of Tilda Swinton, dressed not unlike the woman from Brown's painting, as a bride mourning her executed husband,[3] screaming and letting out a primal cry whilst rubbish burns around her. The scene was shot near the director's home on the beach of Dungeness, Kent.[2]

Other images in the film, are counterpointed by Bach violin sonatas and 1980s disco. Skulls, fire and ashes embody death and destruction, while scenes of sex on a Union Jack flag and 'Spring' masturbating show a disregard for social conventions and suggest a country in a state of chaos and sordid decadence.[3]



Derek Jarman received the 1988 Teddy Award in Berlin for the film. Also Tilda Swinton received the jury prize for her performance in the film.[4]


On Rotten Tomatoes, it has an average score of 68%, based on 3 reviews.[5]

'What proof do you need the world's curling up like an autumn leaf?' is Time Out magazine's review.[6]

"Terrible" is David Bezanson's review, "Impressionistic" doesn't have to mean "bad" and "It's graphic and disorienting, yet also totally trite".[1]


Jarman wrote a book to accompany the film,[7] which deals more explicitly with the relationship he had with his father, who was a Lancaster bomber pilot in the Second World War. Jarman used the impact of his father's despair, depression and violence on his own artistic vision. The depression that his father suffered is attributed to the high number of fatalities that bomber crews experienced and the carpet-bombing of civilians.

The book and to a lesser extent the film are very much in the tradition of Roland Barthes Camera Lucida, Susan Sontag's On Photography, Jeanette Winterson's Art Objects and to a lesser extent John Berger's Ways of Seeing in that he has used the deeply familiar and personal as a vehicle for dialogue about art and contemporary culture.


  1. ^ a b Bezanson, David. "The Last of England Review". Retrieved 14 August 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d Scovell, Adam (7 November 2014). "In Profile: Derek Jarman's The Last of England (1988)". Retrieved 14 August 2018.
  3. ^ a b c d Kuc, Kamila. "Last of England, The (1987)". Retrieved 14 August 2018.
  4. ^ Rose, Toby (6 February 2015). "Berlin Film Festival: why the Teddy Awards ceremony is one of the wildest parties on the festival circuit". The Evening Standard. Retrieved 14 August 2018.
  5. ^ "THE LAST OF ENGLAND (1987)". Retrieved 13 August 2018.
  6. ^ "The Last of England". Retrieved 14 August 2018.
  7. ^ Jarman, Derek; Hirst, David L. (1 January 1987). The Last of England. Constable & Robinson. ISBN 0094680809.

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