CinÉireann Issue 9 - Page 17

COLUMN

“Poetry.”

“Huh?”

“Start with poetry.”

“Poetry? Fuck sake.” Mumbles.

“What?”

“Nothing. Go on.”

“Right. Well. You know John Ford? How they say he was a poetic film maker? Especially his use of Monument Valley?”

“The car guy? He made films too?”

“No. Not the car guy. Made Westerns.”

“….”

“With John Wayne.”

“….”

“Made The Quiet Man.”

“Oh, right, yeah. The one with the leprechauns.”

“No that was the Sean Connery film. The Quiet Man had Maureen O’Hara in it. Big fight scene.”

“Oh, right, yeah. Real diddly-eye stuff. Looked for a stick to hit her. Awful film.”

“Actually, you see, the film…. Any way Ford made westerns, loads of ‘em, and in them he used Monument Valley as a metaphor. Big buttes loom over the characters as they ride in little streams of blue across the screen. The ancient landscape seems to mock the hubris of the characters. Nature is used in the films like nature might be used in a poem, as more than simply a location but as something significant.”

“Ehm. Okay.”

“But, of course nature is used in literature and drama as well, so why don’t I compare film to them?”

“’Cause that’d be too easy?”

“Yeats. Think of Yeats. Think of The Lake Isle of Innisfree. Know it?

“Know it? I’ve taught that poem to second years every third week in November for the last ten years! Know the Lake Isle? Come on.”

“Alright. The poem seems to be using nature in a similar way, except in the poem nature is a place to escape humanity’s hubris, a place to rejuvenate. Both, though, seem to see nature as something outside humanity, as something separate from us. Yeats might see it as benign, where Ford sees it as detached.”

“Like you said, that’s the same in all kinds of literature. Why is film like poetry more than, say, drama?”

“Ignoring the fact that you have, finally, acknowledged film as being literature, I’ll explain. Yeats starts his poem by establishing the Lake Isle, then moving onto the island, then moving into specifics elements of the island.

I shall arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,

This is the establishing shot. Then we move into look at the house:

And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattle made:

Now we know where we are we can zoom into the topic being discussed, nature:

Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey bee:

We’ve zoomed in from an establishing shot of an island right into the face of a bee.”

“Really?”

“Yes, really. Okay, remember the introduction of Luke’s island in The Force Awakens?”

“Of course. Great movie. Shame they didn’t use him properly in the next one. Not going to dirty my mouth by using its name. He was a hero. He was THE hero…”

”Right, yes, okay. We’re not going there again. Just stay with me. That’s, kind of, how they revealed the island? Right?”

“Yeah. I see that. Right into the lightsabre. Yeah. He would never have thrown it away. I mean, he just…”

“Yeah, yeah. I understand. I read your twitter thread.”

“You never retweeted it.”

“Just stick with this for a moment.”

“Sorry. Of course. Go on.”

“They’re the basic shots, the basic words or sentence structures, of film. Ford said that they’re all you need, long shot, mid shot, close up. After that it’s up to the director how he uses them, why he uses them. If she wants to start with a close up. Why? If she wants to have the whole opening wide. Why? If the camera is moved around, if it spins and twirls. Why?”

“Ok. I see that. Thanks.”

“That’s not all.”

“oh.”

“The onomatopoeia of hive for a honey bee, the low hum of the bees we hear in this line is like the sound effects, the foley work, in a film. Yeats pushes that sound out front, a nice calming effect on the audience. So does the director when she decides what sounds to use. Think of Rian Johnson’s Brick.”

“He used to make great film.”

“Yeah, ok. But, remember the chase scene where he turned up the sound of the footsteps?”

“Yeah, then the silence when the kid takes his shoes off.”

“Exactly. Onomatopoeia. Sound for a reason.”

“Right. Right.”

“Alliteration is something similar. Another sound effect except maybe alliteration is closer to the music used in film. Or maybe it’s part of the rhythm of the film.”

“Well. Which is it?”

“Either one or neither. Depends on your perspective.”

“Great.”

“Art doesn’t have an answer. But maybe if you think about the rhythm of film as the beat of the music. You teach Shakespeare’s sonnets?”

“Every January in third year. Shall I Compare Thee.”

CinÉireann / Issue 9 17