War Requiem Review

Image for War Requiem

Assemblage of wartime footage and dilogueless dramatizations appliqued against Britten's Requiem, using the poetry of Wilfred Owen.


Mourning, suffering and remembrance; Derek Jarman's wide-ranging tapestry of violent and lyrical images provides an effective visual accompaniment to Benjamin Britten's music. Laurence Olivier, in his last movie performance, is an old wheelchair-bound veteran, Owen Teale is the Unknown Soldier and Nathaniel Parker the WWI poet Wilfred Owen.

Documentary footage of many wars, handheld Super 8 material recreating the innocence of youth and peace, and a highly stylised evocation of life at the front expressed in washed-out tones which recall old coloured postcards, the contrasting images collide with each other to sometimes monumental effect.

With prominent homosexual undertones and heavy borrowing of library footage from varied 20th century conflicts, this is not the sort of staid documentary you'd expect to find on the History Channel, but stands tall as a testimony to suffering and abhorrence to mechanized violence.