Dutch filmmaker Helmie Stil‘s latest filmpoem, just released online yesterday, is a brilliant follow-up to her award-winning The Opened Field. Like that film, it’s based on a poem from the UK Poetry Society’s 2017 National Poetry Competition, this time the commended poem “Muirburn” by Yvonne Reddick, a scholar of ecopoetry and up-and-coming poet from the northwest of England. And like Dom Bury’s “The Opened Field”, “Muirburn” is an unsettling poem that gives Stil plenty of room to subvert viewers’ expectations, steering just close enough to standard, narrative film-making to draw us in and reveal the—I would argue—true, uncanny reality of nature and our relationship with it. One of the National Poetry Competition judges, Pacale Petit, noted that the poem itself contains “filmic flashes, which dissolve and sear as if glimpsed through a furnace”, and added that it “concludes on an astonishing parting image”—a real gift to the filmmaker, who certainly rose to the challenge.
The film premiered in March, according to the Poetry Society’s announcement post:
Yvonne Reddick also won the inaugural Peggy Poole Award, and the film ‘Muirburn’ was premiered at the Peggy Poole Award readings at Bluecoat, Liverpool on 13 March 2019.
The darkly allegoric winning poem surrounds six boys in a field enacting a disturbing coming-of-age ritual, and is told with a driving rhythm and mantra-like repetitions. The poem interrogates themes of unchecked masculinity, exploring our destructive relationship with each other and with the natural world. The barbaric impulses enacted are interwoven to offer us a sombre and precisely wrought ecological and social fable for our times.
This film interpretation by Helmie Stil takes, perhaps unavoidably, a somewhat illustrative tack while remaining suggestive and allusive in all the right ways, so that the poem doesn’t feel pinned down, as it easily could have felt with a more conventional approach.
A videopoem of the purest sort, meaning that poem and video are one and the same, by filmmaker Helmie Stil with Haide Rollo assisted by Denise Saul. The project from which it and two others emerged sounds fascinating:
Silent Room: A Journey of Language is a collaborative video poem project funded by Arts Council England. Denise Saul, project founder and poet, and Helmie Stil, filmmaker, work with individuals who have the speech disability, aphasia, to produce a series of video poems. This second video poem is Haide Rollo’s Bird.
That’s the Vimeo description. Here’s the Silent Room website. About this film, it says:
Haide Rollo is a workshop participant and emerging poet. … Haide used prompts, writing and hand gesture to create a poem about silent places.
The Desktop Metaphor is a film by Helmie Stil of Caleb Parkin’s second placed poem in the National Poetry Competition 2016, commissioned by Alastair Cook of Filmpoem in partnership with the Poetry Society.
Dutch filmmaker Helmie Stil is also the organizer of Filmpoem Festival 2017 at the Depot in Lewes on October 28, which will include a screening of all ten of the films made for the 2016 winners of the UK Poetry Society’s National Poetry Competition.
Caleb Parkin is a “poet, performer, artist, facilitator and educator, based in Bristol.” His poem on the page takes an interesting diptych-like form as the words echo back and forth from one line to the next.