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Book Review: "Dancing Ledge" by Derek Jarman

5/5 - the notebooks of an artistic genius...

By Annie KapurPublished 2 months ago Updated 2 months ago 4 min read
From: The Margate Bookshop

“Oh how Shakespeare would have loved cinema!”

- Dancing Ledge by Derek Jarman

As I hope you all know by now, Derek Jarman is one of my all-time favourite people ever. A great film director, a brilliant writer and a man who simply has one of the greatest artistic imaginations out there. Derek Jarman was a testament to everything film is meant to be. The creator of masterpieces such as Edward II and Caravaggio, the book 'Dancing Ledge' starts off with the difficulties of making them, the funding that was not there and goes through the incredible hard work that Jarman put in to creating these masterpieces and many more. A man who had a wild life and an even wilder mind proves to be one of the most intelligent men that the film world has ever seen.

Honestly, I can never fault a book by Derek Jarman, he has such a readable tone in his writing that I tend to go through his books like a knife through butter. I just sink into them and lose myself entirely. I spent entire hours reading his books at night-time and I honestly hope that this is not the final book I find by him. I have been through reading his works and re-reading them ever since university and now that I have come to this, I very much hope that there are more to be found. I have heard there are some more and I am just hopeful I can find them.

Note: as we speak, I have ordered some more books. There are only three I have not read by him.

'Dancing Ledge' starts off with a frustrated Jarman not being able to get film funding for Caravaggio and goes back and forth in a look at his life from realising he was homosexual to the point of becoming one of Britain's most revered filmmakers. He talks about filming his very first movie with almost no budget and some angry local people. He talks about having his films both worshipped and panned, where an American audience simply didn't get it. Dancing Ledge is a notebook of a man who's mind is constantly working - he is always on and his mind is like nobody else's.

From: Amazon

Apart from this, we see his life out of order, which I thought was a brilliant way of doing things. One minute we are looking at his life in the 1960s and then 70s, as he set designs for a film called The Devils and eventually exhausts himself. We see him working on his first project at the end of the 70s and in the chapters before, we see him get funding for The Tempest - which I thought was an absolutely brilliant adaptation - one of the likes I have never seen.

Derek Jarman's use of emotion, his understanding of the human mind is pretty much unrivalled by any British director in history. When you watch his adaptation of Marlowe's Edward II and then you read this book which has some of its focus on the difficulties of dealing with his sexuality at a time when Britain was not all too accepting then you can understand how he has put this stuff together. He brings the modern concepts surrounding Britain's difficulty with the acceptance of others and puts it into settings such as Medieval Britain (Edward II) and even Baroque Italy (Caravaggio). He forces the watcher to confront the sight before them and produces an understanding where the viewer did not think there would be one.

It is a great experience to read his books and watch his films. 'Dancing Ledge' is a great testament to that, letting the reader inside his mind and experiences. Derek Jarman had one of the most interesting lives in modern cinema and made some of the most confrontational films in modern cinema too. When you read 'Dancing Ledge' you realise that his artistic vision could not and would not be compromised for anything. It is one of the rare brilliances that we barely ever encounter anymore - a determination that did not break. He did not compromise even when he was well aware that he was sick and dying.


About the Creator

Annie Kapur

200K+ Reads on Vocal.

English Lecturer

🎓Literature & Writing (B.A)

🎓Film & Writing (M.A)

🎓Secondary English Education (PgDipEd) (QTS)

📍Birmingham, UK

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