Jessica Mookherjee‘s poem “Song of the Soil”, from her collection, Tigress (Nine Arches Press, 2019), is given heartfelt filmic treatment by Helen Dewbery and Chaucer Cameron, under the auspices of their production house, Elephant’s Footprint. According to the book’s webpage,
Jess Mookherjee is of Bengali heritage and grew up in Swansea. She has been widely published in magazines, including Under the Radar, Agenda, The North, Rialto, Antiphon and Ink, Sweat & Tears. She is author of The Swell (Telltale Press) and Joyride (Black Light Engine Room Press) and Flood (Cultured Llama). She was highly commended in the Forward Prize 2017 for best single poem. Jessica works in Public Health and lives in Kent.
The poem expresses a deep connection to the Earth in an elegy of lost origins and disappearing ground. Giving further voice to these themes, the film is imbued with overexposed images of a natural world scorched yellow and burnt brown, and a soundtrack made ominous by ambient bass. Mookherjee’s solemn, rich narration rounds the elements of this powerfully organic piece.
The film is part of a series Helen and Chaucer have been doing for Nine Arches Press. They note that “The film-poems are not only viewed by Nine Arches’ existing readers and online audiences, but are a tool for their poets to engage more easily with their existing and new audiences.” The press, however, does not appear to embed any of the videos on the books’ pages, which is kind of baffling.
German film-maker Patrick Müller here adapts to the screen Charles Baudelaire‘s poem, “L’homme et la mer (Man and the Sea)”, from the poet’s most famous collection, Les Fleurs du mal (The Flowers of Evil), first published in 1857. This is his second adaptation of a Baudelaire poem, after Le Chat (2013).
The piece displays a distinctive approach by the film-maker, who shot it on the tiny and mostly obsolete super 8 celluloid format, popularised as a home movie medium from the time of its release by Eastman Kodak in 1965. Müller’s artisanal work includes hand-processing the film himself, then transferring it to the high-quality 4K video format for completion. This combination of analogue and digital creates uniquely beautiful images, with the sensuality of the film grain rendered in uncharacteristic clarity, and the choices in colour grading adding further to the poetry of the visual stream.
The softness and quiet passion of Müller’s voice entices us inwards to the text and the film. As with Caroline Rumley’s, Open Season, shared on Moving Poems yesterday, the soundtrack of L’homme et la mer is punctuated by sudden breaks to silence, as if to give moments of contemplation before beginning anew with the next fragment of the film.
The French-English translation of the poem in the subtitles is by Lewis Piaget Shanks (1878-1935).
Müller’s detailed process notes on the film may be read at filmkorn.org.