Nationality: Germany

frog_poem_text.doc by Annelyse Gelman and Chaucer Cameron

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frog_poem_text.doc is a videopoem from Annelyse Gelman in Berlin, whose earlier film-making and poetry have featured at Moving Poems over some years.

This film was made as part of Chaucer Cameron’s marvellous Wild Whispers project, which involved an array of artists around the world. Chaucer’s original poem was sent on a transformative journey through different nations, in a chain of writing, translation, reinterpretation and finally film-making. The project inspired very interesting and varied videos, reflecting the shifting ways we understand and express language, both textual and filmic. At its completion, Wild Whispers had inspired 14 distinct texts in 10 languages and 12 unique poetry films.

Annelyse’s film came towards the end of the two-year process of the project’s evolution across cultures. The words are almost unrecognisable from the original poem, more like a deconstruction and reconstruction of it. She arrived at this via Google Translate. The voice is synthetically generated. She has written about her approach:

I was interested in maintaining some of the imagery and observational eye of the original text while transforming its sensuousness and sentimentality into something cold and mechanical, and in working with a software collaborator that can produce, but not understand, language. (read more)

Of the 12 films in Wild Whispers, this one may have the closest relationship to a history of experimental cinema starting in the early 20th century. Still now this is a movement often abandoning populist or classical approaches to text, whether narrative or poetic, and with a similarly expanded and exploratory approach to making films. It is a movement that continues to be strongly allied with avant-garde art.

Die Ameisen / The Ants by Joachim Ringelnatz

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A 2019 film by Marie Craven. Here’s what she wrote about it on her blog:

The Ants was made for the poetry film competition of the Leipzig Poetry Society in Germany. The challenge was to make a film based on any poem by Joachim Ringelnatz (1883-1934), a cabaret poet and absurd humorist. Most of the Ringelnatz poems I have read are strange and funny, and very short. I chose Die Ameisen/The Ants for its whimsy, and partly because it includes a reference to Australia, where I live. It’s a coincidence too that ants have been a funny and instructive presence in my life. The film is bilingual, in German first and then English. It was a fun film to make, with music created for it by my long-time collaborator, Adrian Carter, and collage art by Kollage Kid. Both of them are in the UK.

The film ended up taking first place in the contest.

All this week I’m going to be featuring recent poetry films by Marie Craven. When she joined Moving Poems as an editor last year, our initial instinct was to avoid sharing her own films too often to avoid the appearance of favoritism, but I’ve recently changed my mind about that. Marie has become one of the most prominent filmmakers in the international poetry film scene, and it’s silly to pretend otherwise. So it’s catch-up time! Especially since Marie has just caught up on her blog, and I can simply quote her process notes for most of these films.

When Geometric Diagrams and Digits (Wenn nicht mehr Zahlen und Figuren) by Novalis

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Novalis was the pen name of Georg Philipp Friedrich Freiherr von Hardenberg, a poet, author, mystic, and philosopher of early German Romanticism. The poem here is When Geometric Diagrams and Digits from 1800, a year before his early death at the age of 28. In the original German, the poem is Wenn nicht mehr Zahlen und Figuren.

The film-maker, Eric Edelman, based in New York, has titled the video, Novalis. On the surface it appears very simple, yet I find so much to explore, and to learn from it. More an art work in motion than a film in the traditional sense, the video distills the beauty of the Novalis poem, and the inspiration Edelman draws from its author, into a minimal series of iconic elements, with the poem appearing at the end.

Edelman is a prolific creator of original gifs under his RetroCollage moniker, and the video shows evidence of this. Its style and tone are both contemporary and retro. I find the animation in this video to be the best of the many I have seen from him, and the most emotionally expressive. This is enhanced by a soundtrack from 1791: the Clarinet Concerto in A Major, K. 622, by Mozart.

The notes on the Vimeo page for the video reveal more about the diverse cultural influence of the work of Novalis:

Despite his short life and somewhat slender oeuvre, Novalis has since influenced many figures in Western culture, including Richard Wagner, Rudolph Steiner, Hermann Hesse, Walter Pater, George MacDonald, C.S. Lewis, Jorge Luis Borges, and Stan Brakhage.

The most famous of his works are the unfinished novel Heinrich von Ofterdingen and the poetry in his Hymns to the Night. The Blue Flower, shown in this video, occurs in Heinrich von Ofterdingen as a symbol of human aspiration toward love and spiritual advancement; it became central to the German Romantic movement.

Edelman’s bio tells us he has been making collages, by hand and digitally, for more than 25 years. He scans images from wood engravings found in books and magazines dating from 1850 to 1920, then colourises, combines and alters them in photo-manipulation software. The resulting pieces are “a mix of Surrealism and psychedelia, by turns playful and solemn, simple and complex, straightforward and mysterious”.

He collaborates as part of The Typewriter Underground, led by poet Marc Zegans. One of Edelman’s videos for this fascinating project, A Clack in the Tunnel, has been previously shared by Dave Bonta here at Moving Poems. Exhibitions of Edelman’s work include the Williamsburg Art & Historical Center and the American Museum of Natural History.

Standard Time by Daniela Seel

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I was excited to see this film become available on the web last week, because it’s the one my jury mates and I chose as winner of the Weimar Poetry Film Award last year. Filmmakers Hanna Slak and Lena Reinhold adapted a text by the contemporary German poet Daniela Seel. Here’s the statement we released last May:

Standard Time is a timeless, self-referential meditation on the power of communication to transmute and, at times, distort. Its flawless blend of text, sound and images suggests a worldview both deeply rooted and universal, shamanistic and apophatic. It does what all great poems should do in suggesting more than it says and leaving the viewer’s mind abuzz with creative energy and new ideas. Addressing the poetic possibilities of time as it does, it can almost be seen as a film about poetry film itself.

I wrote all about our judging process in “2nd Weimar Poetry Film Award: A view from the jury.” Much more recently, the folks at Weimar have come out with a very effective video collage of interviews and other shots from the festival. And they’d probably like me to remind you that submissions to the 2018 award are still open until the 31st.

quälen / torturing by Etta Streicher

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This award-winning film from 2013, directed and animated by Rebecca Blöcher, is based on a poem of the same title by Etta Streicher. According to the official synopsis,

It is concerned with not speaking out, keeping your feet still or actually biting the bullet and achieving inner freedom. And about how individual mental states influence the world.

When it Comes to Marching by Bertolt Brecht

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A brief animation of a poem from Brecht’s A German War Primer by Andrea Malpede AKA Andrea Nocive, who notes in the Vimeo description:

I’ve always found Bertolt Brecht’s words strong and full of love.
In this animation I tried to give life to his powerful concept.

Das Bild in dem Bild in dem Bild in dem Bild / The Picture in the Picture in the Picture in the Picture by Marlen Pelny

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One of the two stand-out films, along with Die Angst des Wolfs vor dem Wolf, from Lab P‘s 2014 series, this stop-motion animation by Catalina Giraldo Vélez is based on a poem by German author and musician Marlen Pelny, who also supplied the voiceover and music. The Vimeo description reads:

Closing the window. Shutting up yourself. Observing your memories. Drawers open for storing of the memories, we are constantly looking for, removing or archiving again. We open a book that might be the book of our lives. The image in the image in the image in the image is a metaphor for memory and the nostalgia of forgotten times.

For more information about the film, see its webpage.