Posted at 1:30 PM on December 16, 2010
by Euan Kerr
Filed under: Film
Derek Jarman at a screening of "Blue" before his death in 1994 (Image courtesy of Walker Art Center, copyright Zeitgeist Films)
Amidst the kafuffle about "Fire in my Belly" opening at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis today, another movie being screened just a few yards away in another WAC gallery has been lost in the shuffle.
That's unfortunate because Derek Jarman's "Blue" (1993) is by all accounts an extraordinary film. Jarman, an activist moviemaker who prided himself for having been denounced on the floor of the British Houses of Parliament, created the film as he was dying from AIDS-related complications.
He was also losing his sight in those final months, and he reacted by creating a feature length film which consists of a single shot of a deep blue color which fills the screen.
"And that is all there is," says Walker Film Curator Sheryl Mousley. "There is no other image, and you are really bathed in this blue light."
However "Blue" is constantly in motion through the soundtrack, which mixes music with the writings, memories and recordings gathered over a period of 10 years leading up to just before Jarman's death. Watchers hear Jarman's voice, and those of others, including his long-time collaborator and friend Tilda Swinton.
Jarman was a noted writer and speaker too, and it all blends in to the "Blue" package.
Mousley says it carries the audience along.
"With stories that are told about everyday life, the world events, as well as the rituals that Derek Jarman is going through as he is saying goodbye to his friends," she says. "He knows that he is dying. He is going through the process of a lot of medical treatments. He is also using a particular eyedrop that causes his sight that he is losing, he sees this cerulean blue."
Jarman talked about Yves Klein blue, which is a big feature of the Klein exhibit in another part of the Walker. Jarman also talks about Klein's courage and his insistence of leaping into the void of the unknown.
Mousley describes "Blue " as "a really lovely end-of-life" transition."
She says "Blue" belongs to the activist art movement spurred by the rise of AIDS in the 80's, and so it is appropriate for the screening room in the three year long "Event Horizon" show which draws on items from the Walker's collection.
"And the idea of it was those things that are in our history that have caused change," she says, "And change in many ways."
Mousley points out that "Fire in My Belly" came out of the same movement.
While"Blue" is set up so visitors can slip in and out of the room, Mousley hopes people will stay for all 90 minutes.
"It really does alter your color perception," she says. "When you leave it takes a bit of time for your eyes to readjust."
You can get a sense of the film from this opening extract