The Writer as Collaborator
In what ways do we, as writers, respond to films? I come back time and again to the cinema of Agnès Jaoui and Jean-Pierre Bacri. When I watch “The Taste of Others” and “Comme une Image” I feel instantly at home in a place where language is handled with great care and where what is unsaid is as important as what is said. Perhaps that’s why, miraculously, I find that their films keep changing, the way language does. Coming from the world of theatre, their work puts dialogue centre stage. Theirs is a dynamic cinema that thrives on the tension and the symbiosis between action and words.
As a director, Jaoui often portrays several characters in a single frame to great effect, letting the viewer wander from one character to another— just as one does in the theatre— without being manipulated to focus on specific images. That inseparable and anti-didactic element encourages us to think for ourselves and to confront the characters’ complexities rather than generalize them into types of this or that kind. For me, the simplicity of complexity that is at the heart of the cinema of Jaoui-Bacri evokes W. B. Yeats’ Byzantium:
“All that man is,
All mere complexities,
The fury and the mire of human veins.”
Co-editing the Film Issue I was keen to explore the diverse links between the writer and the screen; to connect poets with filmmakers and allow new creations to emerge from the encounter between the art forms. I am grateful to the University of Edinburgh and Emma Davie at the Edinburgh College of Art, and The Festival of Creative Learning, especially to Jennifer Williams and Lucy Kendra who took this collaboration on board and brought their invaluable insight, creativity and skill to the project. Do visit our collaboration page to watch the films and read more about our project. I hope you find and form your own inspiration in this issue; I hope you feel at home.
Poetry and Film
Poetry and Film make wonderful bedfellows—if poets exist to say the unsayable then it is the filmmakers’ job to make visible what might otherwise never be seen.
When we put the call out inviting poems and film-poems for Magma 71 The Film Issue, we hoped we would be surprised by what we received. We were not disappointed. Amongst the 4,000 plus submissions we received were poems that paid tribute to just about every aspect of filmmaking, film history and personal experience of film.
One of the many unexpected pleasures of reading through the enormous pile was being introduced to films I had never heard of, and being made to think about familiar films in new ways. There were poems that read like film scripts and some so vivid and alive that reading them was almost like being in front of a screen. Lucy Ingrams explores just that in her excellent article on ‘Why reading Elizabeth Bishop is like going to the cinema’.
Many of my favourite films, Jean Cocteau’s La Belle et la Bête, the Coen Brothers’ No Country For Old Men, Hirokazu Kore-eda’s Afterlife, feel like poems to me. It’s not so much the story or individual scenes I remember, it is the wash of the whole, the overall effect—it’s a physical thing. In his essay, ‘Ut pictura poesis’, film professor Peter Evans focuses not only on how poetry is like film but how it can play a central role. And in our ‘Inspired’ section, film and poetry prove mutually expansive as Rebecca E. Marshall’s mesmeric film provokes a heart-stopping response from poet Caroline Bird.
Find yourself a seat, make yourself comfortable and enjoy the issue!
Buy this issue for £8.60 in UK (including P&P) » Buy Now