War Requiem (1989)


War Requiem is a 1989 film adaptation of Benjamin Britten’s musical piece of the same name.


A movie with no spoken dialogue, it is set against the music and lyrics of Benjamin Britten’s “War Requiem” which includes poetry by World War I soldier Wilfred Owen reflecting the horrors of war. There is no linear story or dialogue. It’s imagery reflects Owen’s story, that of other soldiers, and a nurse during World War I. It also includes actual footage of contemporary wars, including World War II, Vietnam, and Angola.


  • Laurence Olivier (Old Soldier)
  • Nathaniel Parker (Wilfred Owen)
  • Tilda Swinton (Nurse)
  • Sean Bean (German Soldier)
  • Nigel Terry (Abraham)
  • Patricia Hayes (Mother)
  • Owen Teale (Unknown Soldier)
  • Jodie Graber (Young boy soldier)
  • Spencer Leigh (Soldier 1)


It was shot in 1988 by the British film director Derek Jarman with the 1963 recording as the soundtrack, produced by Don Boyd and financed by the BBC. Decca Records required that the 1963 recording be heard on its own, with no overlaid soundtrack or other sound effects. The film featured Nathaniel Parker as Wilfred Owen, and Laurence Olivier in his last acting appearance before his death on 11 July 1989, aged 82. The film is structured as the reminiscences of Olivier’s character, the Old Soldier in a wheelchair, and Olivier recites “Strange Meeting” in the film’s prologue.

Shooting for the film took place at Darenth Park Hospital in Kent, beginning 17 October 1988 and lasted for 18 days.



The film was released on VHS and Laserdisc in 1990, but because of its limited release, copies are quite rare. A US (Region 1/NTSC) DVD is available from Kino International. The film has been released on UK Region 2 DVD featuring a Making of War Requiem documentary and interviews with Swinton, Parker and Don Boyd (who also provides an audio commentary). A DVD has also been released in Japan.


  • Opening credits prologue: Wilfred Owen, the soldier poet whose words inspired Benjamin Britten’s music, was killed in the last week of World War I at the age of 25.
  • Theatrical movie debut of Nathaniel Parker (Wilfred Owen).
  • Theatrical movie debut of Alex Jennings (Blinded Soldier).
  • Closing credits epilogue: Benjamin Britten (1913-1976) WAR REQUIEM, opus 66.

Production & Filming Details

  • Director(s):
    • Derek Jarman
  • Producer(s):
    • Don Boyd … producer
    • Herbert Chappell … executive producer: Decca
    • Chris Harrison … associate producer (as Christopher Harrison)
    • John Kelleher … executive producer
  • Writer(s):
    • Derek Jarman … (written by)
    • Wilfred Owen … (poems) (uncredited)
  • Music:
  • Cinematography:
    • Richard Greatrex
  • Editor(s):
    • Rick Elgood
  • Production:
    • Anglo International Films (Anglo International Films Limited)
    • British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) (for)
    • Liberty Film Sales (in association with)
  • Distributor(s):
    • Movie Visions (United States, 1990)(theatrical)
    • The Criterion Channel (United States, 2019)(digital, TV)
    • Umbrella Entertainment (Australia, 2011)(DVD)
    • Uplink (Japan)
  • Release Date: 06 January 1989 (UK).
  • Rating: PG.
  • Running Time: 92 minutes.
  • Country: UK.
  • Language: English.

Video Link(s)

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