Firstly, Have you ever noticed that when one film is lauded and embraced by the masses, it doesn’t take long for another to follow in its tracks? That’s because great films always find their way to audiences. However, it’s a generation gap or some kind of socio-cultural concern causing the acclaim, there’s no denying that some of the most important movies ever made have been the ones we see just a few years after they’re released. But what makes them so memorable, so original and so groundbreaking? And how can you make your own work stand out? Below are some great poetic films that are based on poems.
1. Bright Star (2009)
Director- Jane Campion
Based On- “Bright Star, Would I Were Steadfast As Thou Art” by John Keats
It’s 1818 in Hampstead Village, on London’s outskirts. The Dilkes family resides in one half of a house, while poet Charles Brown dwells in the other. Mr. Brown is known to the fatherless Brawne family through their friendship with the Dilkes. Mr. Brown and Fanny, the Brawne’s eldest daughter, aren’t friends. She believes he’s arrogant and unpleasant, while he thinks she’s a pretentious flirt who only knows how to sew and has opinions on topics about which she has little knowledge. John Keats, an insecure striving poet, moves in with his buddy Mr. Brown. Mr. Brown does everything he can to keep Miss Brawne and Mr. Keats away, but their love takes a long time to grow.
2. Jabberwocky (1977)
Director- Terry Gilliam
Based On- “Jabberwocky” by Lewis Carroll
Dennis, the wide-eyed cooper apprentice, enters the formidable gates of King Bruno the Questionable’s medieval capital, intent on demonstrating his value and impressing his one true love, Griselda Fishfinger. The citadel is engulfed in muck and terror, as the mere prospect of a hideous nightmare creature lurking somewhere outside the stronghold’s lofty walls fills men with dread. Only a jousting fight can choose the realm’s defender under those terrible conditions, and for the first time in a long time, ordinary Dennis is the master of his fate. The beast’s slayer now stands to inherit vast fortunes and a magnificent grand prize.
3. Beowulf (2007)
Director- Robert Zemeckis
Based On- “Beowulf” by Anonymous
Sjaelland Island, near the modern-day Danish city of Roskilde, from the 6th century. The hideous Grendel, an accursed creature of darkness and murderer of humans, attacks Heorot, King Hrothgar’s splendid mead hall, pitilessly slaying and devouring his troops, just as the Danes’ realm is celebrating an era of prosperity. But Beowulf, the renowned Geatish hero with the power of thirty men, appears from the sea, eager to fight the devil. This, however, is a near-impossible task.
4. Mulan (1998)
Director- Tony Bancroft, Barry Cook
Based On- “Ballad Of Mulan” by Anonymous
5. Troy (2004)
Director- Wolfgang Peterson
Based On- “The Illiad” by Homer
It is the late Bronze Age, and the year is 1250 B.C. After Helen, Queen of Sparta is persuaded by Paris, the Trojan prince, to abandon her husband, Menelaus, and sail back to Troy with him, two burgeoning states clash. Menelaus approaches his brother Agamemnon for assistance after learning that his wife has been kidnapped by the Trojans. This is an opportunity for Agamemnon to gain power, according to him. They embarked on a journey to Troy with 1,000 ships and 50,000 Greeks. The Greeks are able to overcome the Trojans for the first time thanks to Achilles’ support. Hector, Prince of Troy, brings them to a halt.
6. O Brother, Where Art Thou?
Director- Coen Brothers
Based On- “The Odyssey” by Homer
In 1930s Mississippi, Ulysses Everett McGill and his buddies Delmar and Pete go on a picaresque trip. As they try to reach Everett’s house to recover the buried loot of a bank heist, they are confronted by a cast of bizarre characters, including sirens, a cyclops, bank robber George “Baby Face” Nelson (who is irritated by the nickname), a campaigning governor and his opponent, a KKK lynch mob, and a blind prophet who warns them that “the treasure you seek shall not be the treasure you find”.
7. Braveheart (1995)
Director- Mel Gibson
Based On- “The Wallace” by Blind Harry
William Wallace is a Scottish rebel who organizes a rebellion against Edward the Longshanks, the harsh English ruler who wants to claim the Scottish throne for himself. William Wallace’s father and brother died along with many others trying to liberate Scotland when he was a boy. When another loved one is murdered, William Wallace enlists the help of Robert the Bruce and embarks on a long journey to completely liberate Scotland.
8. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
Director- Henry Selick
Based on – “The Nightmare Before Christmas“
It’s the same routine every year in Halloween Town: on Halloween, the monsters emerge and terrify the living daylights out of the town. After Halloween night, Jack Skellington, the pumpkin king, is tired of the notion and saunters off into the woods with his dog Zero. He discovers a clearing of woods with many doorways signifying various festivals at the crack of dawn. The Christmas Tree door catches his eye, and upon entering the world of Christmas, Jack is enthralled by this new concept of Christmas, which he feels compelled to share with the residents of Halloween Town.
As an art, poetry has a number of remarkable qualities that make it compelling to watch on the big screen. Perhaps the best way to enjoy poetry is through one of these films, but only if you can get past their flaws. Each poem is unique, and many are just as complex as any novel. They’ve taken great care in selecting their words, and so should you when watching them on film. You’ll lose out on some subtle things if you only focus on the big picture. Feel free to enjoy these films for what they are though, great poetry presented through moving pictures. If you’re looking for reading material on your own time, it might be worth giving some of these poems a read before you see how they were brought to life onscreen.