Films to Inspire Your Lyrical Soul
Cinema, also known as the Seventh Art—a term coined by film critic and theorist Ricciotto Canudo—is a magical passage to other lands. Through its symbiosis between images, music, and words, the viewer can explore old and new narratives. Films are wondrous to immerse oneself in different surroundings—both in these especially troubled times and in seasons of prosperity and contentment.
Below are six films that I have selected with wonderful stories featuring poets and poetry. They are incredible celebrations of the interminable power of both written and visual lyricism.
Dead Poets Society (1989)
Screenwriter: Tom Schulman
Director: Peter Weir
This film focuses on the importance of ideas and words. Set in a boys’ school in Vermont, the students meet a professor who will mark their lives forever. With his unorthodox methods, the new English teacher, John Keating, inspires the pupils to live extraordinary lives. Some of the poems that appear in the film are “O Me! O Life!” by Walt Whitman, “Ulysses” by Alfred Lord Tennyson, and “She Walks in Beauty” by Lord Byron.
Total Eclipse (1995)
Screenwriter: Christopher Hampton
Director: Agnieszka Holland
Total Eclipse is based on letters and poems by French poets Paul-Marie Verlaine and Arthur Rimbaud. The film portrays their violent relationship with several tempestuous events. The line uttered by Rimbaud after stabbing Verlaine is adapted from his writing: “the only thing unbearable is that nothing is unbearable.”
Screenwriter: Rob Epstein & Jeffrey Friedman
Director: Rob Epstein & Jeffrey Friedman
This film depicts Allen Ginsberg’s life and work. It is named after his eponymous poem (entitled “Howl for Carl Solomon”) and is construed by juxtaposes of cinematic techniques and historical occurrences.
The Raven (2012)
Screenwriter: Ben Livingston & Hannah Shakespeare
Director: James McTeigue
This film adopts the title of one of Edgar Allan Poe’s most notable poems, “The Raven.” Before this film, other productions inspired by the poem were made in the years of 1935 and 1963 with distinct plots. This one follows Edgar Allan Poe himself as he becomes involved in police investigations due to resemblances found between his tales and the crimes perpetrated.
Kill Your Darlings (2013)
Screenwriter: John Krokidas & Austin Bunn
Director: John Krokidas
Kill Your Darlings shows the college years of three poets of the Beat Generation: Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and William Burroughs. They share their dreams and bold ideals.
Endless Poetry (2016)
Screenwriter: Alejandro Jodorowsky
Director: Alejandro Jodorowsky
Endless Poetry is the sequel in Jodorowsky’s two-part film autobiography. The first, titled The Dance of Reality, presents his childhood. Endless Poetry illustrates Jodorowsky’s young adult years, following his story as he pursues a poetic path.
For continued viewing, I would also recommend Penny Dreadful, a series that includes poetry and it is fantastic to watch during the cold months. This series features characters from books like Frankenstein and Dracula. You will also discover some poetic easter eggs throughout (look out for one in a conversation between Vanessa Ives and John Clare in Season 2: Episode 5) that are sure to delight any lyrical writer’s heart.