A Cinema of Modernist Poetic Prose: On Antonioni and Malick

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Peter Verstraten



In his essay “The ‘Cinema of Poetry’” (1965), Pier Paolo Pasolini claimed that cinema might be apt for exploring a ‘poetic’ style, because the medium has an “irrational nature”. Due to a slippage of terms, however, Pasolini does not so much come to define a ‘cinema of poetry’, but he will examine the conditions of a ‘free indirect discourse’ in cinema instead. As a consequence, I will follow John Orr’s suggestion to read the essay as an attempt to draw analogies between cinema and the poetic prose of modernist fiction. Examples of (‘hardcore’) free indirect discourse in literature, taken from Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse, will be read in tandem with scenes from films by Michelangelo Antonioni and by Terrence Malick.


Dans son essai "Le 'cinéma de poésie'" (1965), Pier Paolo Pasolini a affirmé que le cinéma pourrait être apte à l’exploration d’un style ‘poétique’, parce que le medium a un ‘caractère irrationel’. En raison d’un glissement des termes, cependant, Pasolini n’en sera pas pour autant venu à définir un ‘cinéma de poésie’, mais à la place il aura examiné les conditions d’un ‘discours indirect libre’ dans le cinéma. En consequence, je vais suivre la suggestion de John Orr de lire l’essai comme une tentative d’établir des analogies entre le cinéma et la prose poétique de la fiction moderniste. Des exemples de (‘hardcore’) discours indirect libre dans la littérature, empruntés à La Promenade au phare de Virginia Woolf, seront  lus en tandem avec des scènes de films de Michelangelo Antonioni et de Terrence Malick.

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Author Biography

Peter Verstraten, Leiden University

Peter Verstraten is Assistant Professor of Film and Literary Studies as well as chair of the Master Film and Photographic Studies at Leiden University. His study Film Narratology was published in 2009 at University of Toronto Press. [With two directors of photography, he co-edited Shooting Time: Conversations on Cinematography (Rotterdam: Post Editions, 2012).] Recent articles were devoted to a variety of subjects, ranging from early film adaptations of fairy tales to Bruno Dumont's Hadewijch and from Godard's Pierrot le Fou to Nicolas Roeg's The Man Who Fell to Earth.