Thursday, September 9, 2010
Derek Jarman's In the Shadow of the Sun
In the Shadow of the Sun is an astonishing film, a cinematic equivalent of ambient music. Over the course of some 50mins Jarman weaves an extraordinary tapestry of drowsy half-speed Super 8 images flowing above and beneath one another like rivers of lava, momentarily cooling to form an image then melting, dissolving and reconstituting into the next image. Jarman fans will recognize some of the films that appear within In the Shadow of the Sun - the landscape film, Journey To Avebury (1971) is extensively used as a backdrop, on top of which you can catch images that have strayed from Tarot (1972) and Fire Island (1974).
There's an extraordinary undercurrent of magick running through the film, with recurring images of mirrors reflecting light, a shadowy figure shuffling tarot cards, sinister figures wearing strange masks and an amorous couple dancing through burning meadows. The Super 8 film stock had naturally degraded to form amazing other worldly colors and textures, and the heavy grain, scratches and rough splices on the film hypnotize the eye as they flicker and dance across the screen.
So far the only DVD release for In the Shadow of the Sun is courtesy of Italy's Raro label. Entitled The Super 8 Programme Vol 2, it also includes the Super 8 films Journey To Avebury (1971), The Art Of Mirrors (1973), Ashden's Walk On Mon (1973), Stolen Apples For Karen Blixen (1973). Its difficult to rate the image quality of the DVD, evidently sourced from a VHS copy from the presence of a few tracking lines here or there. However, this may be as good as its gets and the image is pleasing nonetheless. Audio wise, Throbbing Gristle's score sounds a little hissy and dated compared to the current CD version (which was remastered in 1993 as part of Mute's Throbbing Gristle re-issue program). Perhaps one day we'll see a better version of In the Shadow of the Sun, but until then the Raro DVD is highly recommended. The film is also currently available to watch online