Saint Sebastian as a gay icon

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Finally on DVD: Derek Jarman’s erotic debut work “Sebastiane”. A gay martyr drama from 1976.By Carsten WeidemannThe first feature film by Derek Jarman is a cult classic of erotic cinema. At the end of 2008, “Sebastiane” first appeared in German cinemas, now the movie is also available on DVD.Although historically based on the Christian martyr legend, “Sebastiane” stages Saint Sebastian as a gay icon after famous role models. The first and only erotic film with Latin dialogues – and thus according to distribution “also suitable for school classes”. Fortunately, there are German subtitles.The story: The Guardsman Sebastiane, who was disgraced by his Emperor Diocletian, is banished to an isolated outpost of the Reich. The other soldiers there in the sweltering heat pass the time with sword exercises, swimming, body care and erotic games. In the heated situation, he comes into conflict with the sadistic Captain Severus, who is secretly in love with him. Since Sebastiane refuses him and also confesses to Christianity, he is shot by his comrades with arrows.Saint Sebastian, a martyr who risks death for his beliefs, quickly became one of the most popular Catholic saints. The naked, handsome soldier, pierced by arrows and exposed to the public eye, has always been a gay icon. One of the few artistic themes (especially in the Renaissance) in which the naked male body could be celebrated, but also a complex erotic motif with elements of masochism such as voyeurism. In his gay charge, the pierced body of the saint is on the one hand References to times when gay desire used the image repertoire of a repressive Christian culture to give it a different meaning – on the other hand, the desiring gay gaze on the male body was always associated with danger, martyrdom and censorship. Not least for this reason, it can be explained that in the times of AIDS hysteria, a renaissance of the Sebastian motif was to be observed in gay art.Jarman’s debut was received with great attention and criticized from many sides. For Jarman, Sebastiane was all about homosexuality. “It’s perhaps the first film ever to reveal homosexuality as a social fact that is not questioned at all – in response to all the other films that require heterosexuality to be normal and never questioned, which is not like others Films before – a movie for a ghetto audience – or for a heterosexual, for whom gay relationships from the outside as ‘something special’, as a social or personal problem are presented.Our film is about a group of men, isolated from the the rest of society – this is a laboratory of many possible types of relationships – which, unfortunately, as Sebastian’s apollonian fantasies already anticipate, have since been displaced from the social world until today, “said Jarman in interviews to the film launch.Director: Derek Jarman, Cast: Leonardo Treviglio, Barney James, Neil Kennedy, Richard Warwick, Ken Hicks, Janusz Romanov, Steffano Massari, Daevid Finbar, Gerald Incandela, feature film, Great Britain 1976, original Latin version, German subtitles, 82 minutes, extras: Making of, short film THE SAINT of Bavo Defurne, music: Brian Eno

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