Nationality: Russia

Life, Life by Arseny Tarkovsky

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It’s always fascinating to see how different poetry-film makers will deploy the same text. In his film, Cameron Michael juxtaposes the dreamy text and soundtrack with time-lapse shots of New York City, while in Exiles, Bangladeshi director Amirul Rajiv uses black-and-white footage of a vast Rohingya refugee camp. Which is a better fit? How does our understanding of the poem change from one film to the other?

Poetry-film fans should recognize the name Arseny Tarkovsky: his son, the great Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky, included his father’s poems in some of his most memorable scenes. Here, the title poem from Virginia Rounding’s recent volume of English translations comes to us via an album by the film composer Ryuichi Sakamoto, which he offered up for an international short film competition earlier this year. Here’s how the website No Film School described it:

The composer behind ‘The Revenant’ has teamed up with Apichatpong Weerasethakul to give out awards totaling $5,000 cash.

This past spring, Ryuichi Sakamoto released his album async, which he described as a “soundtrack for an imaginary Andrei Tarkovsky film.” Today, he announced the async Short Film Competition, in which he asks filmmakers to create a movie around his music.

The short films will be judged by Sakamoto and acclaimed filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul (Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives). In addition, one filmmaker will be given an “Audience Award” based on the following method: One point for every time the submitted film is played on Vimeo; 10 points for every “like” on Vimeo; and 10 points for every “like” on Facebook by September 30th, 2017.

Sakamoto will decide on a winner based on the following criteria:

  • Originality
  • Creativity
  • Unique expression of the relationship between the music and the images
  • The general appeal of the film

[…]

Apichatpong will decide on a winner based on the following criteria:

  • Originality
  • Creativity
  • The general appeal of the film

Links to all the films entered in the competition are currently on the front page of Sakamoto’s website. You can see more film interpretations of this poem by doing a Google video search for Arseny Tarkovsky “Life, Life”.

ПИЛИГРИМЫ / Pilgrims by Joseph Brodsky

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Pilgrims is “a short film based on the poem of the same name by Russian-American Nobel Prize winning poet Joseph Brodsky,” performed, directed, cinematography by John Doan. Click the CC icon for subtitles in Russian, German, French, or English. The synopsis on Vimeo reads:

Poet alone with his thoughts and feeling tries to find answers to life’s greatest questions. Where is this world going? What is real and what is illusory? Where can one find salvation and peace? Will his inner pilgrimage come to an end?

In addition to his other roles, Doan was also the English translator here; the music is by Moby. Visit the Facebook page for more information on the film.

На заре – наимедленнейшая кровь / At dawn – quiet blood by Marina Tsvetaeva

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A poem by the great Marina Tsvetaeva in a film directed by Natalia Alfutova. Be sure to click the CC icon for the English translation by Tony Brinkey. Anastasia Somova (Anastasia Somique) and Artem Tkachenko are the actors, Valeria Ordinartseva co-wrote the script with Alfutova, and Mikael Hamzyan was the cameraman.

Послушайте / Please listen! by Vladimir Mayakovsky

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This wonderfully disturbing film by Natalia Alfutova was recognized by the ZEBRA Poetry Film Festival 2016 jury as a Special Mention for the Goethe Film Prize. Be sure to click the closed captioning (CC) icon for the English translation. Here’s the description from the ZEBRA website:

The Dummy and its mirror-reflection are in the waiting room of God. They mimic the Human-talk and the God dancing.

Natalia Alfutova
was born in Moscow and studied Mathematics at the Moscow State University, movie directing at ‘Higher Director’s Courses’ Moscow,, and multimedia art at The Rodchenko Art School (Moscow). In 2014 she founded “Mediamead” art studio. Artworks of this studio are based on the mix of math, cinema and multimedia art. In last two years Natalia made a number of installations, which were shown in different Moscow Museums and art places.

Much to my own surprise, this is the first Mayakovsky poem I’ve ever shared a video for. I was sure I must’ve found others over the years, but apparently not.

navn nome name by OTTARAS

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Sound poetry and concrete poetry elude most efforts at translation — except for translation into videopoetry, as in this new release from OTTARAS (Ottar Ormstad and Taras Mashtalir) and Alexander Vojjov. I’m sure knowing Norwegian would add layers of meaning but even without that, I found the visualization of names as planetary objects or one-celled organisms intriguing and delightful. Here’s the Vimeo description:

NAVN NOME NAME (2016) is based on Ottar Ormstad’s “telefonkatalogdiktet” (‘the phonebook poem’). It is his third book of concrete poetry, published in Norway by Samlaget (2006). For this language research project, Ormstad read (!) the phonebook of Oslo 2004 and selected names on a poetic basis. In the book, the names are presented visually as concrete poetry. Most of the names are strongly connected to Norwegian and describe phenomena in nature.

NAVN NOME NAME is the second work of a collection of video poems created by the Norwegian-Russian duo OTTARAS (Ottar Ormstad and Taras Mashtalir) in collaboration with Russian video artist Alexander Vojjov. In the video, Ormstad reads names selected by the Russian-American composer Mashtalir. Through this work, Norwegian language turns into international sound poetry. Ormstad’s collection of family names present in Oslo’s phonebook at the time of reading are exposed and read by the author while performing to Mashtalir’s pulsating music. Is everyone connected to each other in the sphere that is shaping before the viewer’s eyes? How do names and language relate to the atmospheric scapes Vojjov creates of numbers, geometric forms and abstract shapes?

NAVN NOME NAME exists in different versions made for screening and live performance. Raising awareness of electronic poetry and sonic ecology, attracting new audience to a potent yet to come genre is the inspiration for this collaboration.

The video is produced in HD 16:9 in color, stereo.
Duration: 06:05 mins
Animation: Alexander Vojjov
Music: Taras Mashtalir
Concrete poetry, voice & production: Ottar Ormstad
© Ottar Ormstad 2016

No Regrets ( Не жалею, не зову, не плачу…) by Sergei Yesenin

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A film by John Deryl, who also supplied the voiceover using the English translation by Andrey Kneller. The YouTube description includes a process note:

Usual people don’t see many things around them. This piece shows what usually happens in my mind when I walk on the street. This morning I did not plan to make a film, but I happened to take my camera with me, and it resulted in this video. So I filmed it, found the right poem and narrated, chose the right music, mixed, edited, and color graded everything in about 6 hours. And now you have a chance to be in my mind for some time.

I Loved You (Я вас любил: любовь ещё, быть может…) by Alexander Pushkin

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A simple but effective video by actor John Deryl, who also does the voiceover, using Genia Gurarie’s English translation of Pushkin’s poem. (h/t: Ivan Mason, via email)