An excerpt from a 30-minute film by Lisa DeLillo with poetry by expatriate Burmese writer Kyi May Kaung. There’s also a second excerpt on YouTube, which includes a prose intro on Burmese politics and censorship, but I preferred this selection for its striking scenes of puppets and dancers miming puppets.
The full-length film was made in 2001, and DeLillo’s website quotes a review by Art Jones from Shout magazine:
To get at what’s real, “Tongues” focuses on that which can’t be subjugated. Social indictments sprout from the small, personal anecdotes of student leaders. The savaging of national character unfolds in the words of noted poet Kyi May Kaung, now a producer with Radio Free Asia. The horrors of “freedom lost” find voice in Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, Nobel Peace Prize winner and repeated recipient of Burmese house arrest. Yet most irrepressible are “Tongues” images of Burmese rivers. The water providing life is the same water choked with the blood of civilian casualties, water that DiLillo uses as a constant mirror of all the regime would like hidden.
“An experimental video based on a Marianne Moore poem,” says Erik Carlson. The voice is that of the poet. I think the video really gets inside the modernist worldview, so to me it’s a good match.
The poem should be public domain now, I believe, so here’s the text:
through black jade.
Of the crow-blue mussel-shells, one keeps
adjusting the ash-heaps;
opening and shutting itself like
The barnacles which encrust the side
of the wave, cannot hide
there for the submerged shafts of the
split like spun
glass, move themselves with spotlight swiftness
into the crevices —
in and out, illuminating
of bodies. The water drives a wedge
of iron throught the iron edge
of the cliff; whereupon the stars,
bespattered jelly fish, crabs like green
lilies, and submarine
toadstools, slide each on the other.
marks of abuse are present on this
defiant edifice —
all the physical features of
cident — lack
of cornice, dynamite grooves, burns, and
hatchet strokes, these things stand
out on it; the chasm-side is
evidence has proved that it can live
on what can not revive
its youth. The sea grows old in it.
Goethe’s poem of gothic horror has haunted me most of my life. As a child I found the poem in a collection of books at an estate auction. I read it over and over, fascinated by this idea of the fairy realm as dark and ugly, something sinister that we should fear – not the glamour and sparkle of modern fairy tales. A warning about things that haunt old woods and black forests.
The bits and pieces, techniques and layers used to create this film are many. Dozens of forms of manipulation have been brought together, from animation to live action, from drawings to rotoscoping. This is my homage to Starewicz, Svankmajer, and the Quays – their dark dreams have inspired my nightmares, have given birth to a generation who see the eyes in the forest and know that all that is fairy is not light.
According to the Vimeo page, this is
A video poem using the text of poet Gerard Manley Hopkins from a journal entry he wrote in 1866. Video by Jym Davis. Featuring William Haun and Kenny Jensen. Filmed at Fontana Dam in North Carolina.
This video really adds to my appreciation of the William Blake poem. I’m not sure who put it together, but it’s one of a number of video poems from the Catalan literature site Blocs de Lletres (whence the Catalan subtitles).