Lost in the Movies: Cinepoem: What the Soul Desires (+ The Full Cinepoem) (videos)

Cinepoem: What the Soul Desires (+ The Full Cinepoem) (videos)

Easily the simplest entry in my Cinepoem series, and perhaps my favorite, "What the Soul Desires" selects excerpts from Augusta Theodosia Drane's poem (which, a century later, was adapted as a Donovan song) and plays with black-and-white, color, and widescreen clips to represent the spiritual yearning and rapture it describes. This also allowed me the perfect opportunity to end where I began, setting up the similarly-themed words of Alfred, Lord Tennyson and his Grail quest.

After all, these videos all connect to one another, each picking up directly where the other left off in a kind of stream-of-consciousness form of creation. I made these ties explicit by compiling all five videos into a single running which ends with a loop back to the beginning. For now I am just posting it to Vimeo, but in a couple days I will also add this "Full Cinepoem" to YouTube:

Few poems took longer to choose than this one; for a while I thought I would follow my Rimbaud Cinepoem with something by Baudelaire but when I thumbed through Flowers of Evil, I couldn't find anything that struck a particularly visual chord - to my surprise. So I spent months, off and on, scrolling through poetry archives online until I came across the work of the Tractarians, "High Anglican" poets, writers, scholars, and theologians who were part of the Oxford Movement in nineteenth-century Britain. Led by John Henry Newman, many of them eventually abandoned the Church of England altogether and converted to Catholicism, frequently becoming priests, monks, or nuns. I became fascinated with this relatively obscure history; something about members of a modern society radically leaping into a more traditional, disciplined practice felt resonant and compelling. These 1840s Englishmen and women, sacrificing the familiar comforts of bourgeois Protestantism for the both foreign and ancient call of Catholicism, reminded me of 1960s student radicals whose revolutionary fervor led them into the American Weather Underground, the Italian Red Brigades, the German Red Army Faction/Baader-Meinhof Gang, or the Japanese United Red Army. Of course, Newman and Drane didn't set off any bombs - and were essentially heading in the opposite ideological direction.

Drane's work in particular stuck out to me - both the poem that I ended up using, after considering many other authors and works, and her memoir which you can read online (it is written under the name Mother Francis Raphael, which she adopted after taking vows). This too makes for vivid reading, immersing us in both the emotional quality of her slow conversion and the day-to-day world of Victorian England. None of this bears directly on the video itself but I like the way her own journey rhymes with some of the more transporting visions of cinema, vulgar as the old nun may herself find that comparison! (She didn't even appreciate her own poetry, and hoped it and her autobiography would be burned upon her death.)

I discussed my obsession with the Oxford Movement and other related phenomena in a couple Patreon podcasts, here and here.

also on Vimeo:

images from ALL FILMS featured in the full Cinepoem
(in the order they are featured)

(space station in upper right)

(top of a woman's head)

(pink and blue shapes in space)

(lights of town in the valley)

(couple on the beach)

(golden castle)

(birds in the higher left)

(boats on the horizon)

(the flying monkeys and tree branch)

(the three images of the woman)

(city wreckage)

(Dorothy in the lower right)

(Laura Palmer in the lower left)

(about half of the images featured throughout)

(about half of the images featured throughout)

(young man with arrow in his back)

(the green stream with the leaf)

(the volcano)

(the ocean waves)

(the stretched-out birdhouse and tree)

(the lower left and middle images of Nazis marching with torches and banners)

(the lower right image of Nazis marching toward us)

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