This is probably the last TV interview Derek Jarman gave to the BBC. It was recorded in August 1993 for the series Edinburgh Nights, a magazine program that reviewed theatrical productions, movies and exhibitions from across the Festival. I’d worked on the show twice before, but this time I was back to direct only one item: an interview with Jarman.
On a quiet Sunday morning, in a small hotel situated at the end of a long Georgian terrace, we sat in a cramped front room with a view onto cobbled streets and lush green gardens hemmed in by a black iron fence. The room was cluttered, not an ideal location, but we were on quick-turn-around: shoot it, edit it, get it out.
I hadn’t seen Derek in four years. The last time was during a summer in Glasgow where he had been exhibiting at the Third Eye Center. He seemed happy, dressed in a blue boiler suit and we wandered around a park where we filmed an interview with Derek talking to Richard Jobson about The Pet Shops Boys, films, AIDs and sexual politics. Now it was heart-breaking to see him again, this beautiful, brilliant man dressed in orange and pink and yellow, in vibrant contrast to the ravaging effects of his illness.
Jarman was in Edinburgh to screen his latest film, Blue, a single-shot movie of saturated color (Yves Klein blue), over which actors read extracts from his diary detailing the weeks Derek had spent in hospital, blind as a result of an eye infection caused by HIV. The diary formed the backbone to Blue, from which stories branched out—a film he described as “a sort of Schererazade.” Though it was an intimate portrait of his illness, there was no self-pity for as usual, Jarman was only thinking of others:
”I wanted to convey some of what I’d seen, and the disaster of which I’ve been living through of the last few years. I mean for instance, last Thursday, I was in the hospital, and there was a mom with a two-year-old child who’s got the same infection in the eyes as I have, I couldn’t… I sat and watched as I waited, it was just quite terrible, honestly, you know, I was thinking of this child, you know, that’s all happening and people don’t see it, and they don’t think about it very often, and I hope the film sort of makes people think about that just for a moment.”
Blue was Derek Jarman’s twelfth and final feature film, for which he won the Michael Powell Award at that year’s Edinburgh International Film Festival. It was a much deserved (if late) reward, but as I left to rush back to an edit, I still felt that we had all failed to truly appreciate the man’s genius.
Posted by Paul Gallagher |