Susanne Wiegner‘s most recent 3D animation of a poem by Robert Lax is among the films scheduled for screening this Saturday, October 17, at Visible Verse in Vancouver, North America’s longest-running videopoetry festival.
To me, this is an excellent example of how a good videopoem can open up a difficult or hermetic text. If I’d encountered Lax’s poem on the page, I doubt I would’ve given it more than ten seconds of my attention before becoming irritated or exasperated, but Wiegner’s animation is so compelling and so full of surprises, its seven minutes went by all too quickly. Here’s what she wrote in the Vimeo description:
“the light – the shade” is a poem by Robert Lax that plays with the contrasts and opposites light and shade, with bright and dark, black and white, red and blue. The film begins with a nighttime scenery in a city, moves into a room and starts watching the movement of the shadows on the wall. Finally the camera enters the screen of a laptop and goes deeper and deeper into the poem. The film becomes a journey through the realm of imagination, through spaces and pictures, through letters and words. In that way the minimal language of the poem is unfolded into unexpected pictures.
The recently concluded Art Visuals & Poetry Film Festival Vienna challenged filmmakers to make a make a film with this poem by Georg Trakl, and screened the results just two days after the 100 anniversary of his tragic death. For those who wished to use English, festival organizers supplied a most excellent translation by Alexander Stillmark, as well as a reading in German by Christian Reiner. Many of the competition films have now been shared on Vimeo. UK director Maciej Piatek said about his film (above):
Before I started working on the video footage I had conducted a small study on Georg Trakl’s work. The poet himself was one of the most important Austrian Expressionists. As an avant-garde style, Expressionists cherished more emotional experience over physical reality. The starting point for me was to watch Werner Herzog’s “The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser”. The movie had inspired me to carry out another research on Georg Trakl. This time I was studying the importance of colours in Georg Trakl’s poetry. The Kaspar Hauser Song incorporates colours into a text as much as the other poems by this poet. The main four colours I was focused on were: crimson, green, black and silver. According to Wiesław Trzeciakowski (,,Kolorystyka wierszy Georga Trakla”,kwartalnik-pobocza.pl) we could ascribe to each colour certain emotions and feelings. Therefore I tried to use those four colours as a foundation and structural framework of my film. Additionally I brought to the film an experimental/improvised music by Fanfare, a perfect background music based on live instruments and free unspoiled expression.
German director Susanne Wiegner‘s 3D animation style is instantly recognizable. Quoting from her description at Vimeo (spoiler alert; watch the video first):
The visualization of the poem is based on the inscription of Hauser’s gravestone where you can read in Latin: “Here lies Kaspar Hauser, riddle of his time. His birth was unknown, his death mysterious.” In the film, the typeface is three-dimensional and builds a sequence of spaces, that is passed by the camera. Images and videos are projected on the letters, that lights up in the dark like kaleidoscopic smithers of memory. By these means the epitaph becomes the abstracted path through Hauser’s life from the subtle, slightly colored experiences of nature to the gradually darken spaces of civilisation, to a confusing labyrinth. Towards the end of the poem, the camera leaves the typeface, the script becomes flat again and one realizes Kaspar Hauser’s headstone.
Once I had a finished [sound-]track I started working on the visuals. A combination of sources this time. Footage by Lauren Lightbody (I used parts of this years ago) and SeriesNegras combined with stuff I filmed myself last fall.
I wanted anything but sharp images…blurry feel, colours green and brown… I wanted the edited parts to project a feeling of travel or movement over a period of time and seasons. From contryside to the city from spring to fall.
And finally, this film was
a collaboration between JosdenbroK (video) and Alfred Marseille (sound). The poem, Das Kaspar Hauser Lied, by Georg Trakl was written in 1913. Kaspar Hauser (30 April 1812 (?) – 17 December 1833) was a German youth who claimed to have grown up in the total isolation of a darkened cell. Hauser’s claims, and his subsequent death by stabbing, sparked much debate and controversy.
This was chosen as the winner of the competition. The statement from the jury reads (in English):
The art work in its graphic-abstract form offers versatile imaginative arrangement and a striking combination of drawn animation and moving image sequences to the text. Together with the coherent music composition a compelling work of art has been created. The film by Jos den Brok and Alfred Marseille on the text of Georg Trakl has been considered to the jury to be particularly outstanding and worthy to win the ART VISUALS Special Award 2014.
The nine other “Kaspar Hauser Lied” films screened at the festival may also be watched on Vimeo or YouTube, from directors Jutta Pryor, Nicolas Pindeus, Zooey Park, Dean Pasch, Othniel Smith, GRAF+ZYX, Justine Bauer, Karina Ille and Timon Mikocki.
As mentioned in Part 1, for the 2014 ZEBRA festival, filmmakers were challenged to make a film using a text by the young German poet Björn Kuhligk, with an English translation provided by Catherine Hales. The ZEBRA programme committee chose three best films; these are the other two — both animations, conceived and directed by the animators themselves.
Susanne Wiegner says about her film (above),
The film starts with a peaceful, blue sea scenery full of hope and light. The recitation of the poem begins, that describes in a very drastic way the treatment of the boat refugees by the European Union.
The sea scenery becomes dark and hostile and ends up in front of a wall. The ear-deafening noise of helicopters resounds.The camera pans upwards and one realizes that the walls were built by the European emblem and the whole scenery turns into the European flag. The helicopters disappears, the Fortress Europe “was defended successfully” once again.
The heraldic description of the European flag given by The Council of Europe is:
“Against the blue sky of the Western world, the stars represent the peoples of Europe in a circle, a symbol of unity. Their number shall be invariably set at twelve, the symbol of completeness and perfection…Just like the twelve signs of the zodiac represent the whole universe, the twelve gold stars stand for all peoples of Europe – including those who cannot as yet take part.”
Council of Europe. Paris, 7–9 December 1955
Sometimes, we are like marionettes in the hands of those whom we have either consciously or
unconsciously chosen to please.
A visual adaptation of the poem “Die Liebe in den Zeiten der EU” by Björn Kuhligk.
In addition to the nicely oblique relationship between images and text, I thought the interplay of spoken and whispered lines worked brilliantly.
For the 2012 ZEBRA Poetry Film Festival in Berlin, filmmakers were challenged to make a film using a text and reading by the German poet Ulrike Almut Sandig: “[meine heimat]” (“[my home/homeland/native land]”). In all, they received 33 films from 13 countries. Some of them are up on the web, but to date I’ve only shared one, the entry by Belgian filmmaker Swoon (Marc Neys). This week I’ll be posting a few others I like. (Some are fairly long, so it didn’t make sense to cram them all into one post as I did for “A Westray Prayer.”) The animation above is by the always wonderful Susanne Wiegner, who notes:
[meine heimat] is a poem by Ulrike Almut Sandig, that describes a space of memories or a landscape, that is not clearly defined.
“Heimat” is a very special German word, that can’t be translated into other languages, because it means as well a specific place, as a certain landscape or an abstract feeling. During the Third Reich in Germany, the word “Heimat” was barbarously and fanatically glorified and misused with the result that many people lost their “Heimat” and their lives.
In the video a picture of a concentration camp is projected on the letters of the words [meine heimat] blended with a train ride through my own homeland that reminds also of the terrible deportations to show the ambiguity, that you feel as a German when you think about your “Heimat”.
“something I remember” is a poem by Robert Lax that describes a certain moment outside of time and space during a rainy night. For the film the letters of the poem are divided in a large amount of layers. These layers become spaces, streets and the falling rain.
And at the end … “there is nothing particular about it to recall.”
An interesting solution to the problem of how to envideo a poem whose typographical arrangement was very important to its author. Susanne Wiegner notes at Vimeo,
“just midnight” is a poem by Robert Lax that describes a temporal and spacial situation by very minimal means. For Robert Lax the composition of the letters and words on the paper was very important. And so he created one of his vertical typefaces, that was transferred for the film. The letters become spaces and actors, crossed and circled by the camera. Step by step a three-dimensional formation of words is generated and disappears again in a sheet of paper.
The film has been very widely screened — click through for a full list of festivals and awards.
German animator Susanne Wiegner made this film with audio from the late poet, who “did nothing to court publicity or expand his literary career or reputation,” according to the Wikipedia. A man after my own heart!