Dutch filmmaker Helmie Stil‘s latest filmpoem, just released online yesterday, is a brilliant follow-up to her award-winning The Opened Field. Like that film, it’s based on a poem from the UK Poetry Society’s 2017 National Poetry Competition, this time the commended poem “Muirburn” by Yvonne Reddick, a scholar of ecopoetry and up-and-coming poet from the northwest of England. And like Dom Bury’s “The Opened Field”, “Muirburn” is an unsettling poem that gives Stil plenty of room to subvert viewers’ expectations, steering just close enough to standard, narrative film-making to draw us in and reveal the—I would argue—true, uncanny reality of nature and our relationship with it. One of the National Poetry Competition judges, Pacale Petit, noted that the poem itself contains “filmic flashes, which dissolve and sear as if glimpsed through a furnace”, and added that it “concludes on an astonishing parting image”—a real gift to the filmmaker, who certainly rose to the challenge.
The film premiered in March, according to the Poetry Society’s announcement post:
Yvonne Reddick also won the inaugural Peggy Poole Award, and the film ‘Muirburn’ was premiered at the Peggy Poole Award readings at Bluecoat, Liverpool on 13 March 2019.
Be sure to click the CC icon for English subtitles.
A fascinating collaboration between Russian poet and filmmaker Eta Dahlia and UK poet and artist Iris Colomb. It grew out of a residency at the Center for Recent Drawing, one of “a series of experimental translations of Eta Dahlia’s minimalist Russian poems into gestural drawings,” Colomb writes, which were
entirely process-led. I made use of my limited knowledge of Russian, allowing me to experience the poems phonetically without semantic bias. Translating the poems’ sounds into gestures became the basis of my systemic approach.
I listened to each poem repeatedly for an hour, interpreting each sound as a separate movement tracing a line. Throughout this process my repetitive gestural sequences produced an increasingly intricate network of lines, generating a tightly layered shape. My movements evolved with each iteration, the drawing itself exposing their range.
The resulting compositions became complex maps of my changing perception; areas and textures displaying different levels of conviction and doubt, making these drawings both translations and documents of performance.
Layla Atkinson directed this vivid animation of a poem by Siegfried Sassoon that insists on the importance of remembering the horrors of war in peacetime. The animators are Marie-Margaux Tsakiri-Scanatovits, John Harmer, Rok Predin, Jocie Juritz, Jacob Read, and Clelia Leroux; see Vimeo for the rest of the credits. The Trunk Animation Production Company website provides detailed production notes. Here’s the middle part:
Being that the poem obviously has a dark subject matter, we wanted to find a balance so that an audience would be able to enjoy the film, relate, and hopefully retain Sassoon’s warning, without being either too harrowing, or too warm.
We worked with the amazing Julian Rhind-Tutt on the voiceover, and he played with the delivery of different lines to help ground each scene in a reality.
The visual narrative has a cyclical structure that as we progress, slowly erases reality as memories take over, only for our main character to make a firm decision to regain control and pull themselves back into the here and now.
The poem was written in 1919, and we took influence from cubism, in so much as we wanted to tell multiple stories and ideas at once from different viewpoints. Layla also approached the overall look and feel using a mixture of different textures and materials to build up visual layers.
The darkly allegoric winning poem surrounds six boys in a field enacting a disturbing coming-of-age ritual, and is told with a driving rhythm and mantra-like repetitions. The poem interrogates themes of unchecked masculinity, exploring our destructive relationship with each other and with the natural world. The barbaric impulses enacted are interwoven to offer us a sombre and precisely wrought ecological and social fable for our times.
This film interpretation by Helmie Stil takes, perhaps unavoidably, a somewhat illustrative tack while remaining suggestive and allusive in all the right ways, so that the poem doesn’t feel pinned down, as it easily could have felt with a more conventional approach.
This is the second of two films that I have made in collaboration with the poet Lucy English as part of her Book of Hours poetry film project (thebookofhours.org). As in our first collaboration, this poetry film began as a colour palette that I generated and sent to Lucy. Lucy wrote in response to the palette and sent me back the text and a voice recording of the poem.
I had some footage sitting waiting, so I got to work straight away. I wasn’t happy with the way the words and the film were rubbing against each other so I cleared the decks and went back to the poem. I listened to the recording over several months, trying to slip under the surface of the words. The poem began to play over and over in my head.
One morning over the summer I lay in bed listening to Odette, my eldest daughter, practicing the piano. As she played, the poem was also playing in my head and I was taken by how the two seemed to fit together. I recorded Odette and combined that recording with Lucy’s voice. This audio track then provided the spark of an idea, which in turn led to new raw footage. By the time I sat down to draw the images and the audio track together it felt as if I knew exactly what I had to do.
The most fruitful collaborations always seem to involve an element of serendipity, don’t they?
One of a series of videopoetry collaborations between the UK poet Asim Khan and video artist and experimental animator David C. Montgomery. Watch the others at Asim’s Vimeo page. The soundtrack on this one is courtesy of Maja Jantar (voice) and Kristof Lauwers (electronics).