Sunday, August 01, 2021

film notes | underwater world-building

 I've devoted this week in my movie watching to Guillermo Del Toro films, a couple of which I've seen, but not in a while and others I've haven't got to.  I began with Crimson Peak, which is a horrific bit of  beauty with excellent ghosts and a dreamy old castle --a story that feels like a melding of Jane Eyre and Rebecca with a little Flowers in the Attic thrown in for measure.  I also watched Mama, which was really good horror, proving that ghosts are scary, but so are feral children living in the woods, Pan's Labyrinth a reallly good reminder that the worst monsters are always human, something very apparent in my favorite so far, The Shape of Water. I did not realize that this film existed--2017, when it won a Best Picture award being a year in which I was not paying so much attention to things with my mom sick much of the year.  A retelling of The Creature of the Black Lagoon and a gender reversed mermaid story all in one, a cleaning woman at a 1960's Cold War military facility falls in love with a sea creature man.  Again, humans are the worst and the villain of this is particularly monstrous.  What kept amazing me was not the love story, which is sweet and tragic, but the sets and design--the costuming and the colors that make the movie, even not underwater, feel like it's happening beneath the sea. Since I have a vast love of mid-century industrial design, it's especially gorgeous--tank desks and office chairs in grey, green and blue as far as the eye can see. The labs at the fascility have that feeling no other time evokes for me and I wanted to live in it's strange underwater vastness. 

Del Toro is always much loved for his monsters and creatures, but it's those incredible sets and wide shots that kill me. Crimson Peak's crumbling manse filled with black moths. The cabin in the woods of Mama where the children are found, midcenury, but also in ruin. Pan's labyrinth and it's steep staircase into the earth. So much of filmmaking is that visual--those wide, unwinding shots. An immersiveness that swallows you completely. With The Shape of Water, I kept pausing the movie to make it last longer, to marvel at what was on the screen. 

I try to think about how that sort of world-building translates to poems. Since most poems are pretty short--even most series or books of poems are have less time, but I'd like to think this makes it more difficult but also easier, especially given that poems have a permission to be more dreamlike than fiction. To create that world in a small book demands skill. Rather than setting it up carefully, you have to jump right in before even building the boat sometimes  Or you are building it as you go.  S often when I am assembling a full-length mss. I am looking for the series of work that not only share thematic similarities, but also exist in the same world.  Or could if it were real. it's not necessarily limited by time or space.  In something like in the bird museum, the poems take place in a string from Victorian times to the present day, pausing in Joseph Cornell's world of shadowboxes, or 1930's Chicago with the archer avenue pieces. But they are the same world. salvage moves back and forth between the real world and the imagined, but both are equally real somehow and tethered to each other. This new book specifically takes place in a span of 40 or so odd years-the 70's Wisconsin of beautiful, sinister.  The 80's of my own poems about horror movies and taurus. The Slenderman stabbing poems set this century. The world of dark country is the same world, just spanning over decades. 

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