Claus’s poem is adapted to film by his fellow Belgian Marc Neys AKA Swoon. The poet’s reading is courtesy of Lyrikline and the English translation is by John Irons. Marc used footage by Jan Earala, but everything else—concept, music, editing—are his own.
Marc told me recently that he’s moving away from writing process notes, preferring to let the films speak for themselves, as witnessed by his new, stripped-down, portfolio-style website. Last year, he made a pair of films for another Claus poem, “Halloween,” the second one also using footage from Jan Earala. Here’s hoping that more Hugo Claus filmpoems might be in the offing.
you will take your leave of this place
but this place will not take its leave
of you. it is an illness with a voice
that surrounds you. that voice was wet.
A poem and film that seem to speak to the situation of refugees and exiles in Europe and beyond. Flemish poet Marleen de Crée provided the text (from her forthcoming book Druppelpunt) and voiceover, and the English translation in the subtitles is by Willem Groenewegen. Concept, camera, editing and music are the work of Marc Neys A.K.A. Swoon, who notes:
It was the first part of the poem that gave me the idea of showing a person not being able to escape; from her past, from what she did, from her encounters. From who she is…
We have this papier-mâché bear in our house (it will also be used in another video, later this year) that was the perfect prop for this video.
Katrijn Clemer played the woman (and was also responsible for making the bear, years ago).
Once everything was shot (all in one afternoon), the editing process was easy. It all came together perfectly.
I’m very happy with how this one worked out and I consider it one of my best for this year…
This is Swoon’s sixth film made with a text by Marleen de Crée.
Belgian artist Marc Neys A.K.A. Swoon recently released two entirely different films for a poem by his great countryman Hugo Claus: “a ‘European Dance-version’ (using Hugo’s reading from Lyrikline) and an ‘American Road movie version’ using a fantastic reading Michael Dickes made from the English translation by John Irons,” as he put it in a blog post.
‘since January 14, 2015, I’ve been posting one minute of dance to this blog every day, simply, without editing or effects, in the place and state of mind I find myself that day, with no special technique, staging, clothing, or makeup, nothing but what is there.’
I asked if I could use one of her ‘minutes’ (2 février 2015 – 20e danse) for this videopoem. I could.
I simply adore this combination of Hugo’s poem, his voice and her dancing in the snow.
Enjoy! (There’s also a version with French subtitles: https://vimeo.com/118980966)
The source of the ‘road movie’ version is a music video by the collective ESNAF
Their video for ‘The Long Haul’ by NO (cinematography by Jovan Todorović) had all the ingredients I needed for the English version of the poem. I believe the little storyline is the perfect match for the poem and Michael Dickes’ reading.
For some reason, poetry filmmakers don’t tend to combine texts by different authors very often. With Undone, Marc Neys AKA Swoon shows just how well that can work, even with multiple language barriers to cross. Doina Ioanid‘s Romanian text meets Jan H. Mysjkin‘s Dutch text in the soundtrack, with an English translation by Mysjkin in subtitles. As if that weren’t enough, Marc made a second version with the poets reading their work in French translation, also subtitled in English:
And a version of that version with subtitles in German and supertitles in Turkish:
Marc wrote about how he came to make the film in a recent blog post:
This time I picked out Culoarul vagonului e liber/ The coach’s aisle is clear by Doina and combined it with Teniet/ Undone by Jan for obvious reasons.
They both read the poem in French, Doina also read hers in Romanian, Jan his one in Dutch. They also gave me English, German and Turkish translations. So much blocks to work with.
German, English and French translation: Jan H. Mysjkin
Turkish translation: Burak Sengir
Working with a split screen came natural. I combined 2 sets of visuals for each poem. Empty <-> crowded, abstract <-> concrete, nature <-> urban, black&white <-> colour.
Shifting between those during the readings and in between…
In the final editing I made some minor cuts to fit the footage with the reading (different languages, different pace), but nothing major. They all ‘feel’ the same.
I guess that last bit answers my question: Why not put all the translations into Vimeo’s own subtitling system and just serve up a single video? Because Swoon’s an insane perfectionist, that’s why.
Flemish poet Astrid Haerens‘ poem “Trein” in a film by American animators Annelyse Gelman and Auden Lincoln-Vogel, commissioned last year by Filmpoem and included in Deus ex Machina‘s “Filmpoem Album” DVD (which I reviewed here). Now it’s available with English subtitling.
Note to self: make more ‘Belgian’ videopoems…
So I made one to start with. One I wanted to make for a long time, but never had the right idea for.
My idea for the visual was simple, but effective I believe.
‘Cut up flowers and create a house in the most simplistic manner and then destroy the house’
I filmed the whole process from different angles and with different lenses. Editing came naturally once I had the music and the visuals. I adapted the pace and feel of the soundtrack until there was a sense of unity. A translation by James S. Holmes (from ‘A quarter century of poetry from Belgium’, 1970) was used as subtitles.
Memoires is currently a featured film at The Continental Review.
Belgian poet Runa Svetlikova‘s collection, Deze zachte witte kamer, has just won the 2015 Herman de Coninck Debut Prize. Here’s a film Swoon (Marc Neys) made a few months ago with help from the Spanish filmmaker Eduardo Yagüe. (Be sure to watch on a laptop or desktop computer and expand to full screen so the English subtitles are legible.) Marc described their process in a blog post:
Early this summer Runa Svetlikova asked me if I would be interested in creating a video for some poems from her debut ‘Deze zachte witte kamer’ (Uitgeverij Marmer, 2014)
“The beating heart of that new collection is a series of six poems that would fit perfectly in one video”
She was right.
The collection appears to consist of no more than a handful of atoms that randomly traverse space. Against that cosmic and sometimes comical background Runa explores the alienation she feels at the birth of a child, the difficult maintenance of a love without knowing whether there is such a thing as love, the urge to give a voice to a dead father… Yet the poems do tell a story. Especially the middle six; Vogeltje / Birdie – Verzorging / Care – Habitat / Habitat – Classificatie / Classification – Conceptie / Conception – Draagtijd / Gestation.
For this project I asked the help of Eduardo Yague. I felt these poems could use the visual approach of Eduardo. We mailed back and forth on a concept. On what kind of images to use, on colours, a vision. I was lucky he said yes.
I created a track with a reading from Runa;
[listen on SoundCloud]
I gave the recording to Eduardo along with a fantastic translation by Willem Groenewegen.
During a stay in Stockholm he filmed different scenes and improvisations with an actress (Gabriella Roy) and sent me the footage. I asked more or suggested different stuff.
In a final stage I chose and edited the different piece of footage to the track. I am very happy the way this turned out. Working with Eduardo was rewarding and there might follow more…
This easily would’ve qualified for inclusion in my list of Top Ten Multi-Poem Films and Videopoems, had I not already included two other Swoon films. It’s interesting to see how differently he approaches the challenge of melding multiple poems into a single work for each project.