Delphinium’sPortrait of Queer History: Rethinking Derek Jarman’s Legacy
Abstract: Delphinium: A Childhood Portrait of Derek Jarman (2009) portrays filmmaker Matthew Mishory’s interpretation of the childhood of Derek Jarman described in interviews and autobiographical writing such as At Your Own Risk. The portrait of Jarman honours his memory with a Super 8 inscription that repeats the queer sensibility of Jarman’s cinematic and painterly work. Mishory’s film positions Jarman as his filmmaking predecessor; even more so, it positions Jarman as a sort of queer ancestor. Delphinium’s sense of ancestry demands a reappraisal of Jarman’s work that foregrounds its creation of queer lineage. This article does just that, looking at Jarman’s Caravaggio (1986) and Edward II (1991) as both searches for queer origins and formations of queer futures. Through their explorations of queer continuity, Jarman’s films inscribe the process by which one learns to become queer and navigate a world that is so often hostile to queer existence. Their preservation of individual figures of the past provides a queer family history and a tool for education, a means for queers to understand their origins, as well as how to make sense of their own place in the world.