Derek Jarman’s “Blue” (1993)

After looking at the various examples of Alternative Documentaries, Phil told me about a special film by Derek Jarman called ‘Blue’ which “consists of a single shot of saturated blue colour filling the screen, as background to a soundtrack where Jarman’s and some of his favourite actors’ narration describes his life and vision” ( “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.” (

It was the last film he made before he passed away due to an AIDS infection, which also left him partially blind in his final years. The film draws on his transitioning into blindness and on his illness, his change of perception and the meanings associated with the colour blue.

This was a very valuable recommendation and by watching the movie I gained a new insight as to where the boundaries are or whether there are any in terms of filmmaking and being creative with the visuals. This movie was called revolutionary because it reduces its visuals to a single frame of blue yet manages to completely captivate the viewer through the narration, sound and music. Though it is a film, it also somehow documents Jarman’s reality and could be easily regarded as another form of alternative documentary because of its content and narration and the ‘realness’ of it all as Jarman “started losing his sight, and medication was causing him to see as if through a blue filter.” (

Jarman creates a whole sound-scape and also uses silent moments a lot, which gives the viewer a moment to think and process.

So what is the difference to an audio book? Or a radio show?

I believe that because he always comes back to the colour blue during his narration he connects the viewer with what they see, the blue screen, same as with a movie that has visuals and shows the viewer an image of what is said. I watched the screen whilst listening (because it is an 240p video there was quite a lot of pixel movement though) and also tried to just close my eyes and listen and I found that actually watching the screen and focusing on the colour has a complete different effect. It is more engaging, one doesn’t switch off as easily. There has been a lot of theories about our perception of colour and what effect it has on our mind and body, for example:

Blue Color  Blue

Blue is the color of the sky and sea. It is often associated with depth and stability. It symbolizes trust, loyalty, wisdom, confidence, intelligence, faith, truth, and heaven.

Blue is considered beneficial to the mind and body. It slows human metabolism and produces a calming effect. Blue is strongly associated with tranquility and calmness. In heraldry, blue is used to symbolize piety and sincerity.

You can use blue to promote products and services related to cleanliness (water purification filters, cleaning liquids, vodka), air and sky (airlines, airports, air conditioners), water and sea (sea voyages, mineral water). As opposed to emotionally warm colors like red, orange, and yellow; blue is linked to consciousness and intellect. Use blue to suggest precision when promoting high-tech products.

Blue is a masculine color; according to studies, it is highly accepted among males. Dark blue is associated with depth, expertise, and stability; it is a preferred color for corporate America.

Avoid using blue when promoting food and cooking, because blue suppresses appetite. When used together with warm colors like yellow or red, blue can create high-impact, vibrant designs; for example, blue-yellow-red is a perfect color scheme for a superhero.

Light blue is associated with health, healing, tranquility, understanding, and softness.
Dark blue represents knowledge, power, integrity, and seriousness.

——- (

So we are not looking at “nothing” and even a blue screen can have an effect on us, so if we actually watch the movie as a cinematic experience and allow it to “work” on us it will definitely create an intimate connection with the viewer.

In terms of my project this can also mean that a black screen can have an effect, the darkness of blindness.. I yet have to study more examples and also compare radio shows/podcasts to this movie to see where exactly the differences are. It is a great and very unique example of alternative film!

The Full Movie

Interview with Derek Jarman at Edinburgh Fringe Festival 1993


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