BLUE a film by Derek Jarman (1993)
Sightlessness is a curse for a filmmaker, as deafness is to a musician, as speechlessness is to an actor and numbness is to a libertine.
Derek Jarman could see in his mind’s eye a “pandemonium of image” but the ravages of AIDs meant all he could put on-screen for his final film was a blank space, a space where there is nothing to see but the colour blue.
Blue has many alternative meanings: nobility (blood), purity (oceans), pornography (film), optimism (skies) or despondency (feelings).
Jarman suggests these associations without dwelling on specifics or looking for consolation in clichés.
Logically, the words Jarman wrote and the soundtrack he commissioned would have made more sense as a radio play. But cinema was his medium and so he made a movie. A movie with no images released 4 months before his death.
The audience is therefore invited to share the poignancy of a visual artist reduced to an empty canvas in which the words paint the pictures for us of a man who knows he is dying. As we all do. The key difference is that he knew his time was soon, forcing him to accept with resignation “the solemn geography of human limits” and that the end will be soon enough to know that the pair of shoes he is wearing will see out his days.
Jarman’s Blue tells of the indignity of hospital treatment he knows will only serve to delay the inevitable conclusion. “Hell on earth is a waiting room” he writes as a statement of fact rather than to elicit pity. His ordeal makes him all the more conscious that it is our hidden selves that forges our identity.
Blue is his “terrestrial paradise” in which he contemplates his mortality with such resilience and courage that the final words are oddly ,and ironically, life-affirming:
Our name will be forgotten
No one will remember our work
Our life will pass like the traces of a cloud
And be scattered like
Mist that is chased by the
Rays of the sun
For our time is the passing of a shadow
And our lives will run like
Sparks through the stubble.
I place a Delphinium, Blue, upon your grave.
LINK: script for Blue