Jubilee (1978 film)

Directed by Derek Jarman
Produced by Howard Malin
James Whaley
Written by Derek Jarman
Christopher Hobbs
Starring Jenny Runacre
Nell Campbell
Linda Spurrier
Toyah Willcox
Adam Ant
Music by Chelsea
Suzi Pinns
Brian Eno
Siouxsie and the Banshees
Wayne County
Toyah Willcox
Adam Ant
Ludwig Minkus
Cinematography Peter Middleton
Edited by Nick Barnard
Tom Priestley
Release dates
February 1978 (UK)
September 1979 (USA)
Running time
103 min.
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Budget £50,000[1] or £200,000[2]

Jubilee is a 1978 cult film directed by Derek Jarman. It stars Jenny Runacre, Ian Charleson and a host of punk rockers, including Adam Ant and Toyah. The title refers to the Silver Jubilee of Elizabeth II in 1977.


Queen Elizabeth I (Jenny Runacre) is transported forward in time by the occultist John Dee (Richard O'Brien) by the aid of the spirit guide Ariel (a character from Shakespeare's The Tempest) whom he commands. Elizabeth arrives in the shattered Britain of the 1970s. Queen Elizabeth II is dead, killed in an arbitrary mugging, and Elizabeth I moves through the social and physical decay of the city observing the sporadic activities of a group of aimless nihilists, including Amyl Nitrite (Jordan), Bod (Runacre in a dual role), Chaos (Hermine Demoriane), Crabs (Nell Campbell), and Mad (Toyah Willcox).

Numerous punk icons appear in the film including Jordan (a Malcolm McLaren protégé), Toyah Willcox, Nell Campbell, Adam Ant, Hermine Demoriane and Wayne County. It features performances by Wayne County and Adam and the Ants. There are also cameo appearances by the Slits and Siouxsie and the Banshees. The film was scored by Brian Eno. The uncredited piece of music used in the 'Jordan's Dance' scene was written by Ludwig Minkus in 1884 for Act I of the revived ballet Giselle.[3]

Beginning with a scene where John Dee summons the spirit Ariel for Queen Elizabeth I, the action moves to an anarchic 1978, where law and order has broken down and punk gangs roam the streets, committing acts of murder and larceny. In one squat, Amyl Nitrate is instructing a group of young women about appropriate female behaviour—in so doing valourising the violent criminal activity of Myra Hindley—before she reminisces about her time as a ballet dancer and introduces the audience to Mad, Crabs, Chaos, Sphinx and Angel (two incestuous bisexual brothers) and Bod, a virgin anarchist. Bod has just strangled and killed Elizabeth II and stolen her crown. From there the group move on to a café, where Mad attacks a waitress, and Bod contacts impresario Borgia Ginz. On meeting Ginz, however, she is surprised to find Amyl performing a pastiche of "Rule Britannia". Sphinx and Angel establish a relationship with Viv, a young former artist, whom they take to meet an ex-soldier. Ginz is branching out into property management and has purchased 'abandoned' properties like Westminster Cathedral and Buckingham Palace, which are transformed into musical venues. Meanwhile, Mad, Bod and Crabs asphyxiate Happy Days, one of Crabs' one-night stands, and a fight breaks out at a disco session in St. Paul's Crypt. Violent police activity causes the death of Sphinx, Angel, and the Kid and two revenge attacks on the police officers responsible by Bod, Mad, Amyl, and Crabs. Finally, Ginz takes the four women off to Dorset and signs a recording contract with them. Interspersed with these displays of contemporary anarchic violence, Dee, Ariel and Elizabeth try to interpret the signs of anarchic modernity around them, before they undertake a pastoral and nostalgic return to the sixteenth century at the film's end.



The film is heavily influenced by the 1970s punk aesthetic in its style and presentation. Shot in grainy colour, it is largely plotless and episodic. Location filming took advantage of London neighbourhoods that were economically depressed and/or still contained large amounts of rubble from the London Blitz.


The film had many critics in British punk circles. Fashion designer Vivienne Westwood manufactured a T-shirt on which was printed an "open letter" to Jarman denouncing the film and his misrepresentations of punk.[4] Jarman described the project as "a film about punk" during pre-production, but later explained that it had a much broader thematic scope. The film is now considered a cult classic, and was released by the Criterion Collection.


  1. Alexander Walker, National Heroes: British Cinema in the Seventies and Eighties, Harrap, 1985 p. 235
  2. Walsh, John. "Cultivating his own plot." Sunday Times [London, England] 16 Dec. 1990: 2[S3]+. The Sunday Times Digital Archive. Web. 8 Apr. 2014.
  3. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RSf01mefgDA
  4. Jubilee DVD extras, production diary

External links

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