Derek Jarman

Blue: A Film by Derek Jarman

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Derek Jarman's final film was consisted entirely of a blue screen with the flickering shadow of his person appearing and disappearing on its surface. His voice and a score composed by Simon Fisher-Turner of sound effects, performed music, and rhythmic appliances was its soundtrack. The film met with extreme reactions because of its somewhat blasphemous concept. But it also met with great empathy: Jarman made his film all but blind. Shadows and an iridescent blue were almost all he could see at the very end. This soundtrack has Jarman speaking about his disease (AIDS) and his decaying health, and is not all depressing, and it is remarkable. The manner in which Fisher-Turner and Jarman work together is intuitive, symbiotic, as Jarman speaks from his written text of memories, phases of decline, commentaries on AIDS, and a deep meditation on the nature of sight -- his sight and its loss. The loss of sight for a movie director whose visuals were stunning, so rich and even obscene with color and lavishness is what sticks with the listeners. Other voices appear and disappear in the mix, those of actress Tilda Swinton, John Quentin, and Nigel Terry, as singers and incidental characters who are part of Jarman's drama, his complete exposition on the sole remaining color in his sight. In and out of hospitals and clinics, the dehumanization of a person with AIDS by society's guilty, frightened masses and detached clinicians who provide medicines and procedures, but seldom an empathy that can be touched upon by the one in need. The music Fisher Turner uses to move Jarman's monologue is ingenious, it is all fragmentary, like the brief sections of Jarman's text, and creates an atmospheric to reflect each emotion, each new disappointment, each new feeling of hope in the eternal. He uses everyone from John Balance from Current 93 and Coil to Vini Reilly of Durutti Column to fellow soundscape architect Brian Eno to Miranda Sex Garden to vocalist Kate St. John. There is nothing ambient about this ambience, this music and text are ever present, hunted, speaking into an eternity that is as new and frightening as a ferocious animal because its tenets are unknown, its moods and behaviors suspect. Fear, rage, humiliation, humor, and righteous indignation stream forth from Jarman's unwavering voice, steadfast and compassionate in the face of death, the blue eternal, the universal blue. Silence is equated with the loss of sight, and the music, as it implodes around him, takes the death in the air and brings it right through the speakers into the listener's living room. This is, in fact, so much more than a soundtrack, it is even more than a document: It is a musical testament to the holy spirit of one who would not surrender to death without describing its nuances and graces to anyone would watch and listen, to anyone who would, in the presence of his shimmering shadow on the screen, endure his blindness to the last. As he speaks not only for himself, for all of those stricken with the plague. But in that last is the unexpected in the face of the eternal: Blue is the color that knows no boundaries, knows no answers, and asks no questions. Blue is the eternal, the loss of discrimination and hatred, the blue of heaven.

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