ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

An Examination of Derek Jarman’s Blue by Rebecca Sedehi

Updated on April 2, 2015

Jarman Blue

Rebecca Sedehi

Despite the separation that one might expect to feel in front of a vacant screen; the viewer is actually entrenched in Jarman’s emotional journey.

Composer Frederick Chopin wrote, “Simplicity is the final achievement. After one has played a vast quantity of notes and more notes, it is simplicity that emerges as the crowning reward of Art.” Blue, the last film by Derek Jarman chronicles Jarman’s experience of physical decay as complications from AIDS render him partially blind. While film is normally defined as a continuum of moving images, here the viewer is presented with an alternative approach; the screen is filled with a single shot of deep, radiant blue. The simplicity of this pure color functions as both a powerful backdrop and an empty space where the viewer is able to project his/her own images.

In this saturated field of color, the viewer is instantly reminded of Yves Klein’s renowned monochromatic blue paintings. Klein believed that, “The use of a single color, like the use of one note drawn out, creates a sense of the infinite, of continuous immaterial space, of which we are catching (or hearing) only a brief glimpse, a point of possible entry, a tiny invitation to experience, perhaps ever so slightly, the vast reality beyond what is visible.” Jarman was also deeply fascinated by the connection between mysticism and art and the monochromatic works of Klein affected him profoundly.

In 1974, after visiting an exhibit of Klein’s work at the Tate Gallery, Jarman was inspired to make a film dedicated to the artist. However, he did not pursue this idea until almost a decade later following his diagnosis of AIDS. At this point Jarman’s health was in rapid decline and his original concept for the film transformed into an intimate portrayal of his struggle with AIDS. Despite these thematic changes Jarman stayed true to his original concept by eliminating images, opting instead for one color (Yves Klein Blue) to create the “vast reality beyond what is visible.” Thus, Jarman’s “Blue” is simultaneously an autobiographical narrative and a tribute to Yves Klein.

Throughout the 79 minute soundscape several narrators (including Jarman) question and probe the philosophical and metaphysical meaning of blue through poetic descriptions and free association:

Blue of my heart

Blue of my dreams

Slow blue love

Of delphinium days

Blue is the universal love in which man bathes - it is the terrestrial paradise.

Here, blue is defined as an internal emotion that correlates to the infinite. Blue, followed by the words- heart, dreams, love and days conjures particular human experiences but are ultimately rooted in a universal language. Even more abstract phrases such as, “Blue bottle buzzing” or “blue canvasses fluttering in the wind….blue people from over the sea” ground the viewer by using words that reference ordinary things like “bottles”, “canvases” and “people.” At the same time Jarman’s use of the words “sea” and “wind” evoke the elemental and amorphous qualities of an unattainable space.

Though Blue is undoubtedly a film about death it succeeds in being more than a somber film. The narrator at once expresses both wonder and awe as he contemplates the unknowable and mysterious state of nonexistence.

“One can know the whole world

Without stirring

Without looking out the window

One can see the way of heaven

The further one goes

The less one knows”

Beauty reveals itself inside layers of sadness, anger and fear. The narrator longs for his former, vital self but gradually surrenders to the void, as death is inevitable.

“Impatient youths of the sun

Burning with many colours

Flick combs through their hair

In bathroom mirrors

Fucking with fusion and fashion

Dance in the beams of emerald lasers

Mating on suburban duvets

Cum splattered nuclear breeders

What a time it was.”

As the viewer is submerged in blue, a tapestry of sound is woven together with fragments of music and voices that collide with the banal, mechanical, noises of modern life. The monotonous drone of the hospital reiterates the strange and relentless embrace of death. Compelling metaphors such as “My retina is a distant Mars” and surreal statements like, “I’ve walked behind the sky,” create multiple reflections of illness and dying. Like Sigmund Freud’s “rules” for arranging patients away from himself during psychoanalysis to “avoid giving the patient material for interpretation” Jarmon’s positioning of the viewer in front of a blank blue screen allows one to form one’s own images through personal association and intuition. After all, Jarman is a patient himself during the film and his vulnerability and fear are palatable emotions that form the basis of the narrative. However, despite the separation that one might expect to feel in front of a vacant screen; the viewer is actually entrenched in Jarman’s emotional journey. Through the meticulous craftsmanship of sound, music and Jarman’s poignant narrative; the viewer’s senses are magnified transcending one's imagination into a visceral and emphatic experience.

Works cited:

Brougher, Kerry; Vergne, Phillipe; Ottman, Klaus, Yves Klein: With the Void, Full Powers, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden/Walker Art Center, 2010

Jarman, Derek, Kicking the Pricks, Univ Of Minnesota Press; Minnesota, 2010


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)