Caught by the River

A Short Film About Derek Jarman's Garden

Michael Smith | 23rd November 2014

From Michael Smith:

The other day, someone sent me a link to this gorgeous short film about prospect cottage in Dungeness, the otherworldly shack where Derek Jarman saw out the last of his days.

As anyone who’s been will tell you, Dungeness is haunted by a singular and unforgettable spirit of place. It is recognised by the Met Office as England’s only desert, an arid, end of the world shingle beach tucked away in a quiet corner of Kent. “Dungeness is set apart, it is the fifth quarter, the ends of the globe” wrote Jarman, who created his post-apocalyptic garden here, full of cactus and sea kale, driftwood and rusty detritus re-imagined as found sculptural pieces, in the shadow and the hum of the nuclear power station. The garden leaves you with the mysterious feeling of an earthwork that mystically connects to the land in the manner of monuments like Avebury or Stonehenge, the traces of a civilisation whose meaning has become mysterious for us. “They thought I was a white witch out to get the power station,” Jarman joked.

The film was made by Jarman’s old friend, fellow gardener and photographer Howard Sooley, with music by Simon Fisher Turner, who scored many of Jarman’s films. It’s a small jewel, an Elizabethan miniature of a film, evoking the sense of poetry and loss and enchanted desolation that hangs heavy in the air over England’s only desert.

Michael Smith on Caught by the River