Blue (h2so4 2)
film by Derek Jarman
This "film" (if film it be), the last to be completed by the painter
and diarist Jarman before his death early this year of AIDS, is,
I'm pretty sure, the best movie I've ever seen (if it's even "seeable").
One hour and seventeen minutes of luminous blue 35mm glow, unchanging,
calming, irritating, numbing, and a soundtrack laboriously collaged
out of snippets of sound and music and Jarman's meditations on
his encroaching blindness and approaching death, and on the blindness
of the world to its own slower but equally inevitable demise.
Jarman, the consummate image-crafter, whose films are quite literally
"moving pictures," coming to grips with the disappearance of all
images from his field of vision, then the disappearance of his
own self-image into the all-transcending blue of death. Realizing
that, on the world's screen, he has no image; as a queer, an outsider,
none of the images he has midwifed into the world will be allowed
to have lives of their own and enter the viral give-and-take of
autonomous phantasms that is "culture." So, facing death, he faces
not the immediate post-mortem acclaim granted to those who, while
unbearably unproductive while alive, were, at least, fertile;
but rather the amnesia our society reserves for those whose existence
it has never acknowledged in the first place.
"From the bottom of your heart, pray to be released from image."
But of course, none of this stuff is why I wanted to mention it
to you; I brought it up because it struck me, like a bolt out
of the blue, as an answer to my prayer in my anti-review of Dracula,
six months ago. A cinema that has transcended its own images.
Even-tually the effect of the droning blue screen is that you
are inside Derek Jarman's head, seeing what he sees (nothing),
hearing what he hears, both outside and inside, and then, when
the movie's over...The one truly human experience, death, communicated,
by a master artist transcending the materials and limitations
of his own art by facing his own nonexistence, and ours.
The film's ancestors would be the monochromies of Yves Klein (the
color is actually very similar to International Klein Blue), he
of the "leap into the void"; it doesn't take very long before
the brain (or the world), like a sponge, soaks up the blue of
the screen (the same way it would have fed on the fast food of
images, had there been any) and, in the unified blue of the blue
world, we attain, as the old Tibetan texts say, the faculty of
walking in the sky, if only for this short, magic hour and seventeen
minutes of cinematic time.
And so it is that, at the movie's very end, in the midst of an
incredibly lyrical and erotically charged love song, Jarman is
strangely reassuring about the world's blindness. "Our name will
be forgotten, in time, no one will remember our work," he says,
as if this is a good thing, because it allows us to concentrate
on our love, which is what really matters. Freed from self-conception
as artists, queers, or anything else, we are free to become what
only death can make us, human, and hence free to realize the true
potential of our estate. Beyond words, beyond names, beyond subject
and object "In the pandemonium of image, I bring you the universal