Blue. 1993. United Kingdom. Directed by Derek Jarman. Narration by Jarman, John Quentin, Nigel Terry, Tilda Swinton. 35mm. 79 min.
Derek Jarman’s final film was completed months before the artist’s death from AIDS-related complications, which had rendered him partially blind. Blue ’s deep monochrome image is accompanied by Jarman’s reflections on his life and the ravages of illness. But Blue is not only elegiac and diaristic; at times the film is angry, philosophical, and prosaic. It is communal, featuring the voices of friends and collaborators. As ever with Jarman, it is compositionally complex, with a score incorporating music from Coil and Eric Satie with the film’s polyvocal narration. In each of these qualities lies an echo with Moyra Davey, who was invited by the Walker Art Center to create a work in response to Jarman in 2015. Drawing a parallel with her own loss of eyesight due to multiple sclerosis, Davey’s foray into Blue unleashed associations ranging from Jorge Luis Borges to PJ Harvey in exploring the resonance and limits of making work from one’s own life. A recurrent question in Davey’s practice, it is frequently summed up by the Rainer Werner Fassbinder quote that opens Davey’s film Notes on Blue: “The more honestly you put yourself into the story, the more the story will concern others as well.”