Skip to main content

The Poetic Language of Cinema

Author: Hafiz Kheir
Part Four

From Poetic to Lyrical Films

In the last two parts we looked into the main features of the cinematic language, from the angle of techniques such camera framing and editing and textual features, such as narrativity. In this part we aim to explore what we described as different levels of poetic language in work. Using some examples from two films we aim to further our definition of the poetic, in opposition to what we will call lyrical, language in cinema. The aim of these two case studies is to later compare the two features in question.

We will be looking into two films that we consider being examples of these two types. The first is a film by Wim Wenders (visit his site) and the second is a Maya Daren's film.

The Sky Over Berlin

The film is set in the city of Berlin four decades after the Second World War. Two angels roam the skies over a city that is divided into two parts as a result of the war. Through the angels' metaphysical abilities we are introduced to the most hidden secrets of the city's inhabitants. From the start, the film is introduced through what seems like a child's consciousness, or that of a soul longing to return to child innocence. The voice of the narrator recites fragmented, poetic passages about personal desire and wishes . Through the whole film we encounter images of the remains of the war and feel the presence of the burden of history over the city’s shoulders.
The angels act both as silent narrators and active players; through their abilities to transcend time and space (and narrative rules) the film introduces other characters, spaces and details in the city. From the skies over Berlin we look into the hidden lives of the city’s people. The city itself seems to be haunted by a life that exists beyond everyday reality. From there we look into people's lives, listen to their thoughts and inner dialogues, observe their struggle with living and being.

Marion, a trapeze artist, meets one of the angels, Damiel. Their different desires and longings become a centre of the film and bring them together. She, an earthy being, wants to fly and transcend the limits of her physical existence; and he, a divine spiritual, longs for gravity and craves the physical dimensions of being. Their love overcomes the limitation of gravity.
The Sky Over Berlin has being described as an example of poetic expression in films. It was also hailed as a triumph for a new language for cinema, which can actually bring about a different kind of expressionism to the medium.

Walter Benjamin
In his study on the treatment of space in The Sky Over Berlin Jesinghausen brings ,Walter Benjamin's investigation on the auratic work of art to the domain of cinema, something Benjamin himself was reluctant to attribute to the seventh art. Jesinghausen, however, describes Wim Wenders film as an 'auratic experience'. “[Wenders] succeeds in creating an auratic film in the best possible sense [and] transforms physical urban spaces successfully through cinematic alchemy into metaphysical space, thus creating the filmic auratic experience."
The idea of the auratic work of art hints clearly to a poetic nature that Jesinghausen thought to be a distinct feature of The Sky Over Berlin. Aura as a concept is thought to have common features with the project of transcendental aesthetics developed by German romantics. "Romanticising reality," which forms the centre of the project, would entail "investing the commonplace with a lofty significance, the ordinary with a mysterious aspect, the familiar with the prestige of the unfamiliar, the finite with the semblance of infinity." Indeed, these features, which can be cited in Wenders' film, explain why the film was always described as a poetic piece.
Wim Wenders
We assume that our dissatisfaction with these views is evident in the way we report about them! However, we have our argument that will explain where we disagree.
Following from the outlines we set earlier on elements of a cinematic language, we will first describe broadly what is happening in this particular film by answering the question: 
What are the main elements that constitute the filmic text?

The film is driven by the presents of specific characters that go through a journey of a narrative nature. Though they do not change very much, the two angels seem to acquire new knowledge as they go along in their observational activities. The process of gaining knowledge is clearly linked to actual events that happen to them. (Damiel goes from a. being a spiritual being to b. becoming a mortal, human being).

The presence of a narrative structure, although slow-paced and often interrupted, is the main driving force that pushes forward the filmic text from a beginning to an end.
Other elements, or textual features, like camera movements and transitions are clearly affected by the presence of the narrative. All these elements are working as narrative agents as they contribute to the task of telling the story. (More of this further down.)
But The Sky Over Berlin still has many poetic features which can be observed in many ways:

  • it uses poetic texts through the voices we hear; 
  • it creates metaphysical worlds and transcends spaces and times in a way that is not possible for an ordinary language of narrative cinema. 
  • It, furthermore, frees the use of narrative devices, such as plot and development of events, by slowing them down to the extent that they almost lose their functions as narrative devices. Some narrative changes are expressed (or enhanced) by the use of unfamiliar narrative transitions that they almost acquire poetic motifs. An example of this is the major change from black-and-white to colour to signify Damiel's decent from the angelic dimensions to the human existence form.
These features, however, do not constitute a poetic language in a film by themselves. As we argued earlier in this study, a poetic film should also use poetic grammar to create meaning; a poetic grammar that is unique to the medium it is using. By this we mean the liberated use of all filmic devices and techniques, such as camera movements and editing, to establish a mode of signification that transcends narrativity; a mode in which links between an image and another is not governed by storytelling techniques, character motivations or plot necessities.
In such a liberated language the only role is the freedom of poetry and the unbounded vision of the poet.
When we investigate the presence of a poetic language in cinema therefore, we should be looking into a piece of cinematic "signification" that has an independent authority as a poem. The process of simply "immigrating" and transferring certain features of poetic writing to the screen is hardly so. What Wim Wenders manages to achieve though is to use poetic articulations of the narrator and those of his characters to overcome some of the obstacles of
The presence of the two angels allows the film a certain degree of poetic freedom 
to explore spaces and times outside the boundaries of the real.  
Yet it must be stressed that the free movement of the camera in some of the scenes, when it penetrates through doors and walls, are in fact ordinary POV shots (of the angels), motivated and explained by narrative and storytelling logic. If the camera flies through an open space, roams and navigates in this film, the director feels he needs to explain such movements through narrative logic. This is where the film always comes back to the conventional language of contemporary cinema.
The Sky Over Berlin is a narrative lyrical film; though narrated by a poet, the film lends itself decisively to the domain of prose and to the realms of storytelling. H.K.
End of part four.


Popular posts from this blog

وجوه أخرى للنباتات

وجوه اخرى للنباتات
قصة قصيرة
عندو عود كدا، قال مخصوص، ساط بيهو العلبة لما اخلاقي ضاقت. بعد داك قام قفلا. وقعد يلعب بي شوية الدقن ال عندو قلت ليهو شنو يا استاذ انا ما راجي آخد لي سفه من صنع يديك المدهش. ولا عاين لي ذاتو. قال لي شوية كدا. قمت بزعل خفيض سالتو شنو يعني. الساينص شنو هنا؟ قال لي مافي ساينص. هنا حكمة شعبية. رفعت صوتي شوية وقلت ليهو ياخي انا عايز سفه من غير حكمة شعبية. رد علي بازدرا واضح ما انتو ال بتبوظو الكوالتي باستعجالكم دا. سكتّ افكر. كلامو نوعا صاح وبعدين لقيت في ذهني استهانه بالمادة قيد المناكفه ذات نفسها. وسمعت جواي صوت بيقول لانو المادة دي اسمها سعوط فهي ما ممكن الزول يتحدث عن كواليتي ليها. قام هو فاجاني وقال لي عشان سعوط؟ ياخي النباتات دي كل واحدة ليها شخصيتها وبتتوقع انك تعاملها بالطريقة ال بتحبها عشان تديك العايزو. قلت ليهو يا استاذ شحتفت روحي ياخ. كلها سفه ونخلص. وبعد اتفها عندي سيجارة ح اشربا وكاسين. عاين لي كداااا وقال لي شنو البشتنه المتلاحقة دي. قلت ليهو متلاحقة متلاحقة. قام فاجاني بالكلام دا قال لي افتح العلبة وسف. قمت خفت وقعدت ساكت اعاين ليهو قام ضحك خشخشه ك…

1/3 جليد نسّاي

1/3 جليد نسّاي
قراءة في رواية الرجل الخراب

عبد العزيز بركة ساكن

الجزء الأول

أيها القارئ المرائي، يا شبيهي، يا أخي - بودلير، شاعر فرنسي الفكرة الرئيسة [عند إليوت] هي أننا، حتى ونحن ملزمون بأن نعي ماضوية الماضي..، لا نملك طريقة عادلة لحجر الماضي عن الحاضر. إن الماضي والحاضر متفاعمان، كلٌ يشي بالآخر ويوحي به، وبالمعنى المثالي كلياً الذي ينتويه إليوت ، فإن كلاً منهما يتعايش مع الآخر. ما يقترحه ت س  إليوت بإيجاز هو رؤيا للتراث الأدبي لا يوجهها كلياً التعاقب الزمني، رغم أنها تحترم هذا التعاقب. لا الماضي ولا الحاضر، ولا أي شاعر أو فنان، يملك معنىً كاملاً منفرداً- إدوارد سعيد، استاذ الأدب الإنجليزي الطريق إلى الحقيقة يمر بأرض الوساوس - شانون برودي، عاملة صيدلية.

يبدو مفارقاً، بل غرائبياً، أن تُهرع لقصيدة ت س إليوت (الأرض الخراب) كي تعينك على فهم استلهام عبد العزيز بركة ساكن لها في كتابة روايته القصيرة، الرجل الخراب. فالمفارقة هي أن القصيدة المكتوبة في 1922، وبما عُرف عنها من تعقيد ووعورة، تحتاج هي نفسها لعشرات الشروحات، لكونها مغرقة في الإحالات لتواريخ وثقافات وأديان، بل ولغات أخرى غير لغتها الانجل…

حكاية البنت التي طارت

كنا قاعدين في شرفة منزل صديق جديد في مدينة صغيرة نزورها لأول مرة. الشرفة أرضيةٌ بها أصائص ورد ويفصلها عن الطريق العام سياجٌ معدني تنبثق منه تماثيل صغيرة لملائكة.  وكنت على وشك أن أقول شيئاً عن جمال تلك الجلسة المسائية في المدينة النابضة لكنني انشغلت عن ذلك. كانت فتاة بملابس سباحة ضيقة قد ظهرت في بلكونة بالطابق الثالث للعمارة المواجهة لمجلسنا.  تعثرت الفتاة قليلاً قبل أن تنتصب على كرسي أو منضدة صغيرة، ثم فجأة طارت من مكانها مبتعدة عن البلكونة. لوهلة بدت كأنها فشلت وستقع لكنها شدت جسدها وحركت يديها وقدميها فاندفعت إلى الأمام وانسابت أفقياً في محازاة بلكونات الطابق الثاني تحتها ثم حطت برشاقة على الارض وجرت فدخلت المبنى لتظهر مرة أخرى على نفس البلكونة. وهذه المرة كان معها رجل يلبس قناعاً أخذ يقبل جبينها. طبعاً لفتُ نظر الناس الذين كانوا معي منذ أول لحظة، وشاهدوها عندما حطت على الطريق، وصرخوا من هول الأمر وقال أحدهم، كيف تطير بلا أجنحة وكان رد زوجته جاهزاً، خداع بصري.  وقال آخر، لا وقت عندنا لمعرفة ما إذا كانت هناك خيوط فتدخلت صديقته وقالت إن أشياء غريبة كثيرة تحدث بلا خيوط. بيد أن تفسير ا…