A film interpretation of a Rose Auslander poem by the documentary filmmaker Lisa Seidenberg. I’ll be traveling to Europe soon myself, and this videopoem is helping me psych myself up for it.
Reading the English Wikipedia entry on Ausländer, I was struck by this factoid:
In the spring of 1943 Ausländer met poet Paul Celan in the Cernauti ghetto. He later used Ausländer’s image of “black milk” of a 1939 poem in his well-known poem Todesfuge published in 1948. Ausländer herself is recorded as saying that Celan’s usage was “self-explanatory, as the poet may take all material to transmute in his own poetry. It’s an honour to me that a great poet found a stimulus in my own modest work”.
Without the image, Celan’s poem wouldn’t have been nearly as powerful. Quite a “borrowing.”
The postwar Austrian poet Ingeborg Bachmann‘s voice and words are featured in the latest film from Swoon (Marc Neys). He used a sound recording from Lyrikline together with some footage he shot on his recent trip to Finland and back home in Mechelen, Belgium, according to the process notes on his blog. The English translation in the subtitles is by Monika Zobel, guest-edited by Ilya Kaminsky. There’s a Dutch version of the video with a translation by Paul Beers and Isolde Quadflieg. The music, as usual, is Swoon’s own composition. (And if you liked it, you can support him by buying his music on Bandcamp. He includes “Alle Tage” on his latest album, Timorous Sounds.)
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.
One thing that poetry-film can really do well is make experimental or avant-garde poems seem more approachable, even entertaining, to a mainstream audience. That’s what Austrian filmmaker Hubert Sielecki and poet Gerhard Rühm have managed to do here, employing what can only be called a choral arrangement of readers—all versions of the same person—in 4/4 meter to defamiliarize and poeticize a found text taken from a newspaper report. For someone with no German like me, the result is a pure sound poem. I was in the audience last Saturday for the main screening of this film at ZEBRA, where it was one of the 29 competition films, and the response was very warm indeed. And that’s not a surprise: this is an immensely entertaining film. Had there been a true “people’s choice” award voted on by everyone who attended the competition screenings, I suspect this would’ve won. (I see that the American animator Cheryl Gross, who also had a film in the competition, has also singled this out as one of her favorites.)
An English translation appears at the beginning of the video, but it’s also included in the YouTube description, so let me just paste it in here:
THE LONGEST KISS
The longest kiss in the world continued for 30 hours, 59 minutes and 27 seconds.
Clara and Hannes who kissed each other for the first time on November 21, 1986 are determined to break this world record on Valentine`s Day, February 4.
The world record attempt will be organised by the Association of Pharmacists.
The pharmacists want to promote superior oral hygiene.
They refer to the fact that during a normal kiss 40 000 parasites are transmitted, besides nine milligrams of water, some fat, proteins, salt and also 250 species of bacteria.
The Association of Pharmacists chose Clara and Hannes because at the age of respectively 38 and 41 years they would be experienced.
During the world record attempt they are neither allowed to lie down nor sit and may not visit the toilet.
This short piece by Austrian filmmaker Hubert Sielecki for a poem by Gerhard Rühm was cited by videopoetry pioneer and theorist Tom Konyves as an example of a good sound text videopoem, in a new, lengthy comment at the Moving Poems forum. (This was in response to a Russian translator of his “Brief summary of videopoetry” requesting examples of each of the five types he identifies in the piece.)