Premiered at the Venice Biennial in June 1993 and subsequently exhibited at a series of modern art museums around the world, this most intimate of features marks the final film by Derek Jarman.
It is a work that went on to receive a simultaneous broadcast by Channel 4 television and BBC Radio 3 in September the same year, a remarkable collaborative effort for its
day, given Channel 4 granted an uninterrupted transmission devoid of commercial breaks, so as to allow viewers the pleasure of enjoying its synchronised stereo soundtrack courtesy of Radio 3. Then again, such was more than appropriate, given what we have here is, in effect, a radio play and an acutely emotional, often funny, at times blue one at that too.
For beginning with a series of chimes Jarman presents us with the universal blue, unchanging in colour or shade, as a means for us to envisage the world that he knew only too well during the final period of his life. It is a world devoid of sight, but one filled with the soothing vocal tones of John Quentin, Nigel Terry and Tilda Swinton, long time school of Jarman players who speak in poetic meditation on all things blue, coupled with the experiences of a man dying of AIDS. It is extremely moving.
Only it is more than that. For set to a rich and sound effect driven score by Simon Fisher Turner, is the courageous testimony of the reality of life with AIDS; from the seemingly endless hospital visits and ever worsening eyesight, to the possible side effects of the drug DHPG. Of particular note however are the touching passages that chart the effects of AIDS on the mind and body, together with a spirit weakened in a world in which so many close friends were either dead or dying. The result is a feature that in being Jarman's most personal, is equally his most revealing.
Yet it is also a film that unlike a number of his previous works, is full of words, a vibrant and flowing verbal depiction of the ravages of the virus and of a man
thinking blind - becoming blind. Only unlike the film, Jarman was not blue. Indeed if anything he was without self-pity, bravely confronting his battle with AIDS which devoid of the advances in the drug treatments of today, was a fight he knew he could not win. He died on the 19th February, 1994 aged fifty-two.
That the 35mm swan song of the man who laid the foundations of the New Queer Cinema of today should be devoted to the subject of AIDS, equates to a work that is more than just a profound statement on the AIDS epidemic. Indeed and in Jarman's own words, it made for "a jolly good signing off film."
As a distinguished author, painter, poet, renowned gardener and tireless gay rights campaigner whose personal and political views of life gave rise to groundbreaking cinematic imagery, Derek Jarman remains highly respected and greatly missed.
Derek Jarman | 1942 - 1994 | the Father of New Queer Cinema.