Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Face Down, a good poetry film

Face Down
Poetry films can be interesting, but few hit the heart or gut. Technically, the emotional misfire comes from combining two visual media in ways that make one of them redundant with or distracting from the other. Yes, I do mean that poetry is, by itself, a visual medium.

Face Down by Mary Karr + Charlie Brand, however, works. The images on the screen and the images in the poem are, in a way, independent of one another. The screen does not simply depict things named in the poem. For example, when the poem says, "sleeping lids," the screen could have shown an image of closed eyelids, but didn't. On the other hand, the screen does not throw its own images in front of those in the poem: distraction.

But the screen and poem aren't truly independent either, as they would be if the images on the screen had nothing to do with the subject of the poem. Rather, the screen depicts the "you" of the poem, but not using exactly the same images of "you" the poem uses.

The second half really takes off, as the images on the screen give a kind of real-world anchor to the fanciful images in the poem, while the poem delivers the emotional significance of the quotidian pictures on the screen.

In Face Down, screen and poem are interdependent. And the two are buttoned together at two points where words from the poem are simultaneously shown on part of the screen. Those buttons are the first line, "What are you doing on this side of The Dark?" and "as a blinding Atomic Blast."