Poet: Percy Bysshe Shelley

Lift Not The Painted Veil by Percy Bysshe Shelley

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Filmmaker Marie Craven worked with composer Deon Vozov, who produced the entire soundtrack (including the reading). Vozov commented at Vimeo:

This was a lot of fun, and it was a delight to finally collaborate on something with Marie. After an email volley, I started the soundtrack before seeing the rough cut. I was very taken with the images in the timeline as the edit evolved, and they most definitely influenced definition of touch points in the composition, and the final mix was done to picture. So, half free-form, half score. Anyway, indeed, lots of fun. Looking forward to the next one.

And Craven responded:

It was a highly collaborative process, this one, with very regular emails back and forth between Australia and USA, and various drafts of sound and video. Deon is fantastic and I feel honoured to have been invited to participate. I too am hoping for more collaborations together in future.

She added in an email that they had known each other online and appreciated each other’s electronic music projects for a couple of years.

I asked Craven about her experience adding the closed captioning. She initially tried Amara at my recommendation, but found it somewhat tricky to work with and switched to the other subtitling service Vimeo mentions in their FAQs, Dotsub. “I mainly found it easier to work with in regard to timings of subtitles,” she said. She also made the decision to remove most punctuation and capitalization for easier reading, which strikes me as the right approach for any poem following the old-fashioned convention of capitalizing the first word of each line. In general, I think it’s interesting to compare the decisions made in captioning or subtitling a videopoem which has the poem in the soundtrack, as this one does, with what happens in videopoems that rely solely on text on the screen to convey the poem. With captions or subtitles, ease of comprehension tends to take center stage, whereas when the poem is a graphic element it’s OK — perhaps even essential — to make the viewer work a bit harder to take it in. In either case, it’s a good bet that the filmmaker gains a unique perspective on the poetic text from working so hard to translate it into another medium. “I always love hearing the words over and over so many times while editing,” Craven said.

The footage here was sourced from a public-domain film at the Prelinger Archives, RFD Greenwich Village (1969 circa) — a clothing advertiser’s view of a tamed Bohemia that makes a particularly good fit with Shelley’s poem, I think:

Lift not the painted veil which those who live
Call Life: though unreal shapes be pictured there,
And it but mimic all we would believe
With colours idly spread…

Finally, Marie tells me that the poem has been selected to screen at the Athens International Film Poetry Festival in December, so congratulations to her and Deon for a successful collaboration that breathes new life into a 19th-century classic.

Ozymandius by Percy Bysshe Shelley (Breaking Bad trailer)

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If this video has not been made available in your country, try one of the unofficial YouTube uploads: here or here.

American cable TV channel AMC has created what I think must be the first videopoem ever made as a trailer for a television show, the award-winning crime drama Breaking Bad. In another first, the video garnered a feature in the NY Daily News:

Did “Breaking Bad” just drop a literary spoiler about its upcoming season?

On Tuesday, AMC released a chilling new teaser for the long-anticipated final episodes of the series. The clip shows no characters, no plot and no obvious hints. In fact, the video is only scenery shots of the New Mexico desert, interspersed with a few glimpses of White’s home and abandoned meth-cooking trailer and one peek at what looks like White’s hat, lost in the sand.

The real hint is the soundtrack: Bryan Cranston, who plays meth kingpin [Walter] White, reading aloud Percy Bysshe Shelley’s sonnet “Ozymandias” over a steady, heartbeat-like thump.

“Ozymandias,” supposedly inspired by the Egyptian statue of Ramesses II, is a particularly appropriate choice for the series. The central theme of the poem is the inevitable decline of empires.

“Nothing beside remains,” Shelley wrote. “Round the decay of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare/ the lone and level sands stretch far away.”

“Breaking Bad” has always had a bit of a literary bent. Last season, White’s brother-in-law had an important revelation while perusing Walt Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass.” Will all that White created crumble into decay? Viewers will have to wait until Aug. 11, when the series returns, to find out.

This is, in my view, a highly credible videopoem on its own, and I’m pleased to see that the two official versions on YouTube (one with AMC branding and one without) have so far garnered just shy of 700,000 views. No filmmaker is credited, but I’m assuming that the show’s creator Vince Gilligan had a great deal to do with it, so I’ll put him down as filmmaker until better information comes along.

Music, When Soft Voices Die by Percy Bysshe Shelley

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A kinetic text piece called “In the Memory” by Hyunjoo Oh, who writes, “I wanted to talk about how longing and yearning become stronger as the relationship fades away. Through the process of blowing away and forming typography in various ways, I tried to express Shelly’s poem ‘Music, When Soft Voice Die’ visually; existing permanent values among many things that fade out in this world.”

Mutability by Percy Bysshe Shelley

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Just your standard Shelley zombie flick. Rather heavy on the bogus production company credits but otherwise a memorable addition to the videopoetry corpus, I thought. Joseph Blackwell directs and narrates. Oh, and here’s the poem in case you need a refresher:

We are the clouds that veil the midnight moon;
How restlessly they speed, and gleam, and quiver,
Streaking the darkness radiantly!–yet soon
Night closes round, and they are lost forever:

Or like forgotten lyres, whose dissonant strings
Give various response to each varying blast,
To whose frail frame no second motion brings
One mood or modulation like the last.

We rest.–A dream has power to poison sleep;
We rise.–One wandering thought pollutes the day;
We feel, conceive or reason, laugh or weep;
Embrace fond foe, or cast our cares away:

It is the same!–For, be it joy or sorrow,
The path of its departure still is free:
Man’s yesterday may ne’er be like his morrow;
Nought may endure but Mutability.

Ozymandius by Percy Bysshe Shelley

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This video is the work of Tasmanian “freelance visualisation consultant” Peter Morse. The music was composed by Glenn Rogers and performed by Alistair Foote, Penelope Reynolds and Samantha Podeu. Morse describes the project as follows:

The Video & Text

Percy Bysshe Shelley’s classic poem (1818) is used in the video in relation to romantic and Neoclassical architecture, with particular reference to Boullée and Speer, as a kind of critique of the ideology of power articulated by these architectures. The poem ‘Ozymandias’ is a vivid portrayal of the vanity of demagoguery and monumentalism, explored here as a trope for the moral ambiguities of these unbuilt architectures, that stand as fascinating historical symbols of the folly of certain types of power, albeit from varying political persuasions. The strong counterpoint of the ‘modernity’ of the score with the inflated Neoclassicism of the architecures is an attempt to dramatise the counterpoint of these different aesthetics, both of which have struggled for power in this last century. Ironically, these buildings will ever be as virtual as they are here: fictions of history re-imagined via computer simulation.

The Music

Ozymandias is mostly based on the enigmatic minor and the enigmatic major scales. These are rather unusual and obscure scales not generally associated with Western music. In the more polyrhythmic and densely orchestrated sections the inversions of both these scales are used. In some sections notes from the enigmatic scales act as pedal points (tonal centres). From these pedal points are used their associated harmonic series and their inversions to generate a palindromic type of effect. These techniques were largely employed as formal compositional methodologies and may not be obviously audible in the music.

Note: This was the ‘blurb’ from the “Liminal” interactive CD-ROM (2000). The video was made on a Mac in 1998, using 3D animation and compositing, with footage shot in Berlin.