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.
Marc Neys (A.K.A. Swoon) writes in a blog post about this video that it grew out of a face-to-face meeting with the author, Romanian poet Doina Ioanid, at the Felix Poetry Festival in Antwerp earlier this year.
After the festival I asked her and her translator Jan Mysjkin if I could make a video for one of my favourites of her performance […] The images of this piece were taken from ‘Lost landscapes of Detroit’ (Prelinger Archives) and I re-edited them, adding an extra layer of colour and light.
The result is a short (moody) piece.
To me, the ability to present a poem in multiple languages is one of the best and most under-appreciated uses for videopoetry/filmpoetry, which is itself already something of a translation. I’ve always loved bilingual editions of poetry with the original language on the facing page, but it’s so much better to be able to hear the original while seeing an English version, the two linked and in some ways brought closer together by a filmmaker’s vision (usually including a good soundtrack, as here).