War Requiem - Benjamin Britten and Derek Jarman

Benjamin Britten's War Requiem

English classical composer, Benjamin Britten, composed his War Requiem in 1961. It was commissioned by Coventry cathedral as part of a festival to celebrate its reconsecration after the original was destroyed in the Second World War.

The requiem interposes the Latin Mass for the Dead, the Missa pro defunctis, interwoven with nine poems by the English war poet Wilfred Owen.

Derek Jarman's War Requiem

Avant-garde - or is he regarded as mainstream now? - English director, Derek Jarman, shot a film version of Britten's War Requiem using a 1963 LSO recording solely as its soundtrack. The film featured Sir Laurence Olivier, brought out retirement, as well as Jarman muse Tilda Swinton and a young Sean Bean and Nathaniel Parker.

Against the elegiacal quality of Britten's music and Owen's poetry, Jarman set a series of reminiscences of Olivier's character, the Old Soldier, shot in pronounced chiaroscuro with poetic imagery. The scene of the German and English soldiers having a snowball fight is perhaps one of the most enduring and moving images. The film is now available on DVD. A 20th anniversary edition came out in 2008 with added extras.


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