poetry and film: the Ozymandias script

I’m not the only one. I found this lovely description on a blog called The Listening Ear:

“Cinematic” techniques are techniques that use space and time as their basic building blocks. Poets and novelists and obviously painters always used space and time as building blocks – so analogies are inevitable.

Take Shelley’s Ozymandias: there’s a poem that’s almost a camera ready script. Scenes and shots are all laid out: the poet meets a traveler from an ancient land, who starts to tell of what he’s seen. As he does, the poem almost cross fades (across an ellipse) to shots of the ruined statue of Ozymandias in the desert. We are give a series of shots – as analytically edited as a Russian: “legs of stone… shattered visage… lip and sneer…” – described like a series of shots, edited together – though you could do it as a track past the pieces, though still fairly close… with maybe superimposed ghosts of the old days, the artist’s hands carving the scowling face…. then in – cut or track in, to the inscription:

“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”

And then – what I would call a shock cut, to a long, long shot of the site: “Nothing beside remains.” says the poem – and describes the scene in its full context – the desert sands, “boundless and bare” – with what amounts to a zoom out or pan away from the statue to the empty sands – “The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

It’s a thing of beauty. I suppose treating it like a film doesn’t really add much – that might be the point, though. Poets, novelists, playwrights, painters manipulate space, time, combine images, vary their position relative to their imagery, to create their effects – you have to pay attention to how they treat space, when they do manipulate it. It’s more or less a given with film – the way manipulation of words is a given in poetry, manipulation of stories and characters are in novels or plays – but novels and films manipulate words, poems manipulate characters – cross media techniques are a valuable device for any and all….

Well, there’ll be more. Maybe even more on Ozymandias, as I have a story which will operate nicely as a segue to something else – if I can get the something else together.

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