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).
Maggie Clark’s film of a poem by Laura Seymour, part of a collaboration between Magma Poetry and the University of Edinburgh to make poetry films for Magma 71, The Film Issue. I attended the launch on Friday night at London’s wonderful (and threatened) Cinema Museum, and this was the stand-out film to me. You can find all the films linked from this article. Here’s what they have for Anyone Can Buy a Seat in the Cinema:
Maggie Clark: As my focus is primarily in documentary, the film poem has been an opportunity for me to expand my creative practice and be a little bit more playful with the way I film. It’s pushed me to use visual metaphor as a storytelling device, which is a challenge I’ve really enjoyed! Laura’s poem is about love in the face of prejudice. It carries a sincere and important message, which I hope to do justice in my film.
Laura Seymour: When Maggie and I were talking at the start of the project, I saw that one or two images in the poem stuck out visually from the rest, and also that the images that stuck out visually were perhaps the most ambiguous. The idea that readers or watchers might be more affected by ambivalent imagery was really interesting to me.