~ Filmmaker: Pat van Boeckel ~

Witte Vlag/White Flag by Pat van Boeckel and Pieter van de Pol with Peter Verhelst

Belgian poet Peter Verhelst is the author of the four lines of poetry recited in the film, but I had to include the filmmakers in the title as well because their symbolic, Tarkovsky-influenced style is at least as central to the poetry of the film. Pat van Boeckel is a regular at Moving Poems, and many of his best films spring from other artists’ projects or exhibitions, as this one did. His fellow Dutch artist Pieter van de Pol, who’s the actor in the film, I think, is involved in something called the White Flag Art Project based in Essen, Germany and coordinated by artist Katharina Lökenhoff: “An international art project exploring the white flag meeting global contemporary challenges.” Peter Broderick composed the music.

As an older white male poet myself, watching this led me to ponder the relationship between the Romantic ideal of a heroic lone creator with the larger capitalist culture, its production of ruin in the course of a consumerist atomization of society, and how the apocalypses we conjure in our imaginations have their own daimonic power. None of these lessons are necessarily implicit in the film; I bring them up merely as a way of saying how thought-provoking I find this contemplative style of poetry filmmaking.

Unremembered by Marjorie Buettner

Selected for the 2023 Haiku North America Haibun Film Festival. Browse the other selections.

From Dutch director Pat van Boeckel, who honed his craft in the documentary film genre before branching out into video art. His documentaries have been broadcast on Dutch public television and showcased at festivals, covering diverse topics such as indigenous peoples and ecology, with a philosophical undercurrent. His video installations delve into the complex relationship between humanity and the natural environment, exploring contemporary life through the lens of lost values and other forgotten elements of modernization. His works are notable for their simplicity, which stands in contrast to the fast-paced and ever-changing visual culture of today. His focus on the experience of time and place is central to both his documentary and video art works.

Judges’ statement: “Some really imaginative imagery and ideas. We particularly loved the layered reflections and shadows when the finger is drawing a flower on the window, and the ‘kiss’ of the rose leaf was totally captivating. We also loved the hand within a hand within a hand of the shadows and hand holding the cast of a hand. These images had a haiku-like quality all their own.”

Marjorie Buettner is a Pushcart nominated, award winning haiku, tanka and haibun poet who has published widely throughout the U.S. and U.K. and has previously been an editor for the online journal Contemporary Haibun Online. She has taught haiku and tanka at the Loft in Minneapolis and has presented various poetry workshops throughout Minnesota. Her collection of haibun, Some Measure of Existence (published by Red Dragonfly Press, 2014), won first place in the 2015 Mildred Kanterman Merit Book Awards; it was also nominated for the Minnesota Book Awards. She has a collection of haiku and tanka published by Red Dragonfly Press: Seeing It Now, 2008. She writes book reviews for various haiku and tanka journals.

Gedicht an die Dauer/To Duration by Peter Handke

Dutch filmmaker Pat van Boeckel responds to some lines by the controversial Austrian writer and Nobel laureate Peter Handke, with music by Dario Marionelli. For German speakers, here’s a version without the subtitles.

This is a great example of a poem I wouldn’t spend much time with on the page, given its high level of abstraction—not something I generally look for in poetry. So van Boeckle’s images rescue the poem for me, which is great because in fact the passage of time is a mystery of perennial interest… and also because it seems axiomatic that any argument about duration must take some time to digest.

He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven by William Butler Yeats

A new film by Dutch artist Pat van Boeckel, featuring some stunning footage from Morocco. Yeats’ poem, originally known as Aedh Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven at first publication in 1899, also appeared

in the films Equilibrium, 84 Charing Cross Road and the Korean film Dasepo Naughty Girls. The poem is recited by the character Brendan in the final episode of season 3 of the BBC series Ballykissangel.

The Wikipedia article goes on to list multiple musical settings and uses in novels. Being well out of copyright surely has something to do with that.

Van Boeckel is a regular at Moving Poems, and you can watch more of his videopoems on his website.

Gran mosaico / Large mosaic by Juan Manuel González Zapatero

A brand new videopoem by Dutch artist Pat van Boeckel, who was in northern Spain for an installation with Karin van der Molen at EspacioArteVACA. For this videopoem, he used footage from the installation and collaborated with Spanish poet Juan Manuel González Zapatero. The text resonates with the theme of the installation; here’s what Google Translate makes of the opening paragraphs from Pat and Karin’s joint artist statement:

Can two plus two add up to five? Are there mysterious tools at our fingertips to help us change the course of the world? Can walls tell us stories?

The Dutch couple of artists formed by Karin van der Molen and Patrick van Boeckel try to liberate history and the future from its linear course with their exhibition project at EspacioArteVACA. The vernacular stables of the once self-sufficient mountain mansion located in Viniegra de Abajo invite you to create a poetic dialogue with the history of the place.

Documentary filmmaker and video artist Patrick van Boeckel breathes new life into everyday objects with subtle video interventions. Faces emerging from soapy waters or disappearing behind veils of mourning. A horse that seems to snort behind the blurry bars of his trough. Slaughter pieces that seem to rock on the sea. A wedding dress hangs in the old municipal laundry; the bride’s gloves still dripping onto the water. What will happen to him for the rest of his life? These small installations do not configure a closed history. They are simple ingredients of an amalgam with possible meanings that each visitor must compose.

There’s also a version without English subtitles. The music is by Erland Cooper.

Atlantis—A Lost Sonnet by Eavan Boland

The late Irish poet Eavan Boland’s poem “Atlantis—A Lost Sonnet” in an atmospheric poetry film by Dutch filmmaker Pat van Boeckel, whose work we’ve featured here in the past. There’s also a version in Dutch.

Constroi uma casinha / Build Me a Cottage by Fernando Pessoa

“Video poem made in a abandoned wool factory in Portugal for the museum of Guarda by Pat van Boeckel and Peter van der Pol”, says the Vimeo description. The Guarda City Museum (Museu da Guarda) is in central Portugal.

The English in the subtitles has a few problems, but the film, centered on an art installation, is so imaginative, it more than makes up for it. In fact it’s the Portuguese that’s a translation; Pessoa, who was raised in Durban, South Africa, wrote the poem in English under the heteronym Alexander Search, and the film uses a much later Portuguese translation by Luísa Freire. Pat van Boeckel notes that it’s not a well-known poem even in Portugal.

This is the third videopoem by van Boeckel that I’ve shared (here are the others). Visit his website and Vimeo page for more of his work.

Updated with more accurate information about the poem’s provenance.

Rozmowa z Kamieniem / Conversation with a Stone by Wisława Szymborska

Szymborska’s most widely anthologized poem in a film interpretation by Pat van Boeckel, using footage shot on Sado Island, Japan, including (at the very end) a sculpture by Karin van der Molen. The usual English translation by Stanizław Barańczak and Clare Cavanagh from View With a Grain of Sand is given as onscreen text, with the poet’s own recitation in the soundtrack. I suppose some might find the images of an abandoned Buddhist temple a bit too obvious here (“great empty halls”, “two thousand years”), but I thought they made a perfect fit. The music is by Max Richter — the very same track van Boeckel used more recently for the documentation of his Rilke-inspired video installation.

Ich lebe mein Leben im wachsenden Ringen / I live my life in widening circles by Rainer Maria Rilke

Rilke’s “primordial tower” (uralten Turm) is given literal shape in this otherwise wonderfully suggestive film of a video installation based on the famous poem from the Book of Hours. The film, directed by the artist Pat van Boeckel, takes a kind of call-and-response approach—which seems highly appropriate, given the subject matter—by having a voiceover of the poem at the very beginning (with the English translation by Joanna Macy and Anita Barrows in subtitles), followed by the installation in a kind of reverse ekphrasis. According to the Vimeo description, the installation was “Made for art project Internationales Waldkunst in Darmstadt.” Max Richter composed the music.