War RequiemThis evening, together with composer friend Nigel Clarke, I watched Derek Jarman’s film, War Requiem, which draws together the music of Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem and the character and experiences of First World War poet, Wilfred Owen. The old soldier character played by Laurence Olivier, who dovetails the beginning and the end of the film, could safely have been dropped. On the other hand, Tilda Swinton, who plays a young nurse and whose voice we never hear, provides an intensely moving and expressive central performance. Nathaniel Parker is good as Owen, though a shade too polished for a man who swam in the mud of the trenches. Slightly bizarrely (given that I have just watched them both in Game of Thrones playing Lord Eddard Stark and Ser Alliser Thorne respectively), Sean Bean plays a young German soldier engaged in a futile dance of death with a young British soldier, played by Owen Teale. Nigel and I are about to embark on a fresh collaborative project. It will once again involve music and words, but the exciting ambition is to go much further and to involve images and lighting and theatre as well. Of course, this is what Jarman did so brilliantly well with his War Requiem. Jarman also used archival images and footage and the film cleverly switches from the charnel houses of the Western Front’s trenches to other ghastly wars of the past one hundred years. “If in some smothering dreams you too could pace/Behind the wagon that we flung him in,/And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,/ His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;/If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood/Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,/Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud/Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,/My friend, you would not tell with such high zest/To children ardent for some desperate glory,/The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est/Pro patria mori.”