Derek Jarman still from Blue on display at Tate Modern

Derek Jarman Blue 1993
35mm film transferred to digital file, colour and sound
Duration: 75 mins 
Image courtesy Basilisk Communications

In Derek Jarman’s last film Blue, the monochrome glow of the projected frame echoes the artist’s fading eyesight, as the soundtrack evokes powerful images of the mental, physical and emotional strain caused by his terminal illness.

Blue was completed in 1993, the year before Jarman succumbed to AIDS-related complications. This display marks the 20th anniversary of the film’s release, and doubles as a celebration of Jarman’s life and work two decades after his passing.

In 1974, after seeing a monochrome painting by Yves Klein at the Tate gallery (IKB 79, 1959), Jarman was inspired to make a ‘blue film’ dedicated to the French artist. Indeed, the single frame used in the film was initially a photograph of Klein’s work, painted using an ultramarine pigment solution he patented as ‘International Klein Blue’. Klein chose this vibrant hue to express his idea of art as a rarefied sensorial experience, transcending reality to reach an immaterial, spiritual beyond.

Jarman was also fascinated by mysticism, and often used religious imagery of tormented beauty and heroic suffering to represent aspects of homosexual identity. Diagnosed as HIV positive in 1986, Jarman returned to his ‘blue film’ idea when he started losing his sight, and medication was causing him to see as if through a blue filter.

The script, recited by actors and by Jarman himself, alternates poetry and narrative prose around different meanings and interpretations of the colour blue (melancholy, water, infinity, etc.), autobiographical episodes and invocations to a character called Blue. The soundtrack by Simon Fisher-Turner includes choral singing, time-marking sounds like ticking clocks, chimes and gongs, as well as music by Brian Eno, Coil and Erik Satie among others.

Derek Jarman was born in Northwood, England in 1942. He lived in London and Dungeness, Kent, and died in London in 1994.


Derek Jarman (1942-1994)
Blue 1993
35mm film transferred to digital file, colour and sound
Duration: 75 mins
A Basilisk Communications production © 1993  

Written and Directed by Derek Jarman

Producers: James Mackay and Takashi Asai
Composer: Simon Fisher Turner
Sound Design: Marvin Black
Re-recording Mixer: Paul Hamblin

Nigel Terry
John Quentin
Derek Jarman
Tilda Swinton 

John Balance
Gini Ball
Marvin Black
Peter Christopherson
Markus Dravius
Brian Eno
Tony Hinnigan
Danny Hyde
Jan Latham Koenig
Marden Hill
The King of Luxembourg
Miranda Sex Garden
Vini Reilly
Kate St John
Simon Fisher Turner
Richard Watson
Hugh Webb