I'm always fascinated by how poetry is portrayed or incorporated into film. This morning at Edinburgh International Film Festival, I saw two very different films that had poetry in common.
Demain? follows the passionate and tragically short life of Uruguayan poet Delmira Agustini, portraying her as a tortured genius. Her family were a significant influence on her artistic development, her habit of dancing by herself inherited directly from her father, while her mother smothered her, talking over her any time she got to talk to one of the many famous poets who dropped into her home to pay her homage. Delmira at long last won her parents' approval for her marriage to the man she loved, only to find the marriage stifling and boring, despite the passion. The film is wonderfully filmed with beautifully composed shots, and scenes being in turn naturalistic and stylised, though the scene with the dancing cleaners was overly stylised and didn't work for me. More effective is the use of lighting as a strobe effect during one passionate scene between Delmira and her husband. I also particularly enjoyed the soundtrack, made up largely of birdsong, wind, thunder and Delmira's piano playing. In fact there was more of her piano playing than her poetry in the film, which left me wanting to find and read her work.
Shortly afterwards, I saw In Search of Emak Bakia, a documentary that set out to explore the making of Man Ray's film Emak Bakia, which was probably one of the first cine-poems, a poem with little narrative, that depended on the visual image to create a unique poetry. Emak Bakia is a Basque phrase meaning Leave Me Alone and part of the remit of the documentary is to trace the origin of this name, was it found on a gravestone or was it the name of a house? The documentary is also a wonderful meditation on the serendipity of creativity, juxtaposing scenes from Man Ray's films with scenes filmed during the making of the documentary and finding poetry in the every day. A herd of pigs sleep all cuddled together to wake and run around all together as the cock crows dawn; a plastic glove floats along the road; a series of photos of Basque house names is collaged together to create a poem and the sea is an ever-changing but constant presence. The sountrack is a collage too, made up of found sounds (which can tend to be fairly discordant, not easy listening at all!), tracks from a band called Emak Bakia and tracks from a CD found at Man Ray's grave. We meet intriguing characters, including the owner of an Italian vintage clothing store called Emak Bakia and a Rumanian Princess who is a biologist specialising in ants as well as a champion table tennis player and shot putter. Running like a thread through the film is a sense of loss, lost words, lost names and lost worlds. Stay until after the credits though and one of the lost names is restored to its rightful place in a beautifully satisfying resolution to this remarkable film.
Demain? (directed by Christine Laurent) shows at: 12:50. 30 June in Cineworld 5.
In Search of Emak Bakia (directed by Oskar Alagria) shows at: 20:45, 27 June in Filmhouse 1 and 18:20, 29 June in Cineworld 11
Disclaimer: I have a press pass for the Edinburgh International Film Festival andattend free press screenings.