English avant-garde film director. Jarman made several low-budget, highly innovative features. His homosexuality was a dominant refrain in his work and he was a committed campaigner for gay rights. His films include Sebastiane (1975), with dialogue spoken in Latin; Caravaggio (1986); Edward II (1991), a free adaptation of Christopher Marlowe's play; and his biography of the philosopher Wittgenstein (1993).
Jarman's films often deal with historical subjects, using deliberate elements of anachronism and contemporary comment to provocative effect. His work provoked strong reactions, ranging from admiration for his formal daring, to rejection for what was seen as wilful obscurity.
Early life Jarman was born in Northwood, Middlesex. He took up painting and, after graduating from university, studied at the Slade School in London, where he became involved in the artistic scene of the 1960s. He enjoyed modest success as a painter, but was then asked by Ken Russell to design his film The Devils (1971) and its successor Savage Messiah (1972). This led Jarman, via 8-mm home movies, to film direction.
Films His first feature was Sebastiane, which treated the martyrdom of St Sebastian as an exploration of male sexuality and homosexual desire, and was spoken in Latin with subtitled translation. This was succeeded by Jubilee (1977), about the punk scene, and an unconventional version of The Tempest (1979). Among his subsequent films were Caravaggio, an impression of the Renaissance painter's life, and Edward II. Interspersed with these films were several more overtly personal works in experimental form, including The Last of England (1987) and The Garden (1990).