MiniReview: "Blue" (film)

What you see when you watch this film (if you have your eyes open).


What is it?

A 1993 film by English director Derek Jarman.


Umm … haven’t we already talked about this?

No. We talked about the text of the film, which was published in 1994. But this is the film.


So the film came first?



So why didn’t we review it first?

We just didn’t, okay?


Right. So this is a film, but we’ve already talked about the text and given it a star.

Yes, but the film adds visual and sound effects, and the words are spoken.


Thanks, John, for explaining to me the difference between a film and a book.

I’m just saying, the two things are quite different! It’s a different experience to have the words interpreted through a person’s voice, usually with sounds or music in the background.


Was it better than reading them? or worse?

It’s just different. My overall feeling about the contrast between the text on the page and the film is that, while the text is quite bleak, hearing it interpreted in Derek Jarman’s very cultivated, measured, understated voice has the effect of making the text more story-like, more formal, a bit distanced (surprisingly, because I thought hearing it in his own voice might be more intimate, but it's the opposite). The overall experience, with the music and such, as well as a couple of voices other than Jarman’s, becomes more artistic and hence less raw. More of an aesthetic experience, and (for me, anyway) less of an emotional one. But haunting in a different way, with exquisitely beautiful moments (such as the description of the hopelessness of an AIDS ward at a hospital, set to the gorgeous music of Erik Satie).


What about the visuals?

Well, the visuals are a blue screen.


That’s it?

Yes. I had my eyes closed for most of the film, but it was weirdly calming to open them occasionally and find the blue still there. Much of the text is about Jarman’s deteriorating eyesight, and the absence of any image brings this home. And yet it’s not terrible; it’s not a blank screen, it’s a blue screen.


Hmm. Very artsy, huh?

Jarman was also a visual artist, and yes, it’s not a conventional film by a long stretch. Normally I’m highly allergic to this kind of artificial and somewhat conceptual (some might say self-indulgent) art. But, obviously, in this case, with the filmmaker talking about his own illness and approaching death, there’s huge emotion and drama behind the stripped-down text and visuals. It’s a statement, an artistic statement, almost a last testament. Well, not almost. It’s a last testament.


So we gave the text (the book) a star. What about the film?

I got more raw emotion from the experience of reading the words on the page. But this is more a complete artistic experience. There are moments of exquisite beauty in the film that come from the mix of Jarman’s voice and the music. So I’ll give the film two stars. Ultimately, it made a deeper impression on me.

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