Nula: Butterflies Rise is a decision-making game that explores the experience of living with anxiety.
Inspired by puzzle adventure games of the early 90s like Myst, the surreal comedy of Flann O'Brien, and the author's experience of living with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Nula creates an immersive textual experience, an insight into the daily struggle anxiety can be.
Derek Jarman - Sebastiane
To celebrate twenty years of power, Emperor Diocletian organises a grotesque and gorgeous jubilee. From his crushed velvet throne, the emperor watches the obscenely red tongue of a dancing man flicker and protract. A chorus of men goad the dancer with their exaggerated papier-mâché cocks, coating him with lashings of semen. On the ground, the dancer quivers with tortured pleasure. So begins Derek Jarman’s first feature film, 'Sebastiane', released in 1976, and spoken entirely in Latin. After the carnivalesque colours of the opening scene, the setting shifts to the sand dunes of a remote desert location. Unlike the historical Sebastian who was nursed back to health by Irene of Rome, following the Emperor’s first execution order, Jarman’s saint is surrounded by only men 1.
According to accounts from the mid fifth-century, Sebastian is supposed to have survived his execution by arrows with the help of Irene, only for Emperor Diocletian to sentence him again, a conviction which he could not survive twice.
Sebastiane is part of a rambunctious legion, ruled by the tyrannical Severus. The soldiers are relaxed about the homoeroticism of their group. They tease each other about female and male objects of desire in the same breath; they wrestle and fight, kiss and fuck; sex seems to be a natural part of their bravado. Two characters refuse to participate: Severus and Sebastiane. From his steely lustful stare, and the camera work which picks out the sculptural details of Sebastiane’s slim, tanned body, it is apparent that Severus is tortured by unfulfilled desire. Sebastiane rejects Severus’s desire, not because it is homosexual but because it is human. During the punishments which ensue — shackles, whips, burning wax, prolonged exposure to the sun — Sebastiane seems to come closer and closer to his God. When his motivations are questioned by Justin, the only sympathetic member of the group, Sebastiane replies, ecstatically, ‘I love him. He is beautiful’.
Jarman’s film reframes Sebastiane’s martyrdom, changing it from a sacrifice endured to a pleasure enjoyed. In the final scene, Sebastiane appears as the saint is typically depicted, bound, his body pierced with arrows. Jarman mutes the goriness of this climax by removing synchronized sound; we do not hear the whistle of the arrows, or the flesh splitting upon impact. As a result, the unrepelled viewer can observe the naked Sebastiane in a state of arousal, or as Jarman puts it in his original script, ‘he has a hard on’. 'Sebastiane' is a fearless queering of religious mythology. Sadomasochism and homoeroticism are devoid of deviancy; they are the tenets of sublime faith, a love to die for. Jarman’s seductive and strange debut continues to surprise, no longer because of its uninhibited portrayal of male homosexuality, but because of the banishment of shame from its iteration. 'Sebastiane' loves and it is beautiful.