Poetic Language in Cinema

Helen Ouliaei Nia

Persian Art, Isfahan/Iran, First Year, No. 8, June–July 2006, on the occasion of the presentation of „Windows, Dogs And Horses“ at the Islamic Art Centre in Isfahan, Iran, 17th May 2006

The first immediate impression of the movie Windows, Dogs And Horses by Michael Pilz on the audience who has a slight familiarity with poetry and literature is the imagistic techniques of the film. This reveals Pilz’ acquaintance with poetic language; in other words, the film is imbued with images which are, as the director asserts, are juxtaposed without any premeditation or preplanned organization. Therefore, just like imagist poetry in which clusters of sensuous images – not necessarily rational and without the poet’s comments – are juxtaposed, but they can transfer a sensuous impression to the reader, the images of Windows, Dogs And Horses appear on the screen one after the other. But the paradox is that the same seemingly random images, which are not based on any narrative design, enable the audience to make a connection between these images and make him/her seek a narrative process or meaning and to identify with the producer’s view.

The film begins when the camera is zoomed on a white curtain through whose opening one can occasionally see partial scenes. The somehow dragging scene of the focus of the camera on the curtain, from the beginning establishes and intensifies a sense of suspense; the audience likes to push the curtain aside to see what is going on outside. Therefore, the title which starts with the term „windows“ is linked with this mysterious beginning and after that the camera roves through the street and the daily scenes of the life of people in Zimbabwe and India. What is remarkable in the juxtaposition of the words „Windows, Dogs and Horses“ is that with a little modification can be changed to „Men, Dogs and Horses“ since we watch people through the frame of the window and in the later scenes we are actually exposed constantly to the natural scenes of the presence of human beings through the frame of the lenses (window) of the camera. We start with a scene in which a man is present and puts a reel of the film on the projector and with music in the background watches the film on the monitor; then we see a young man and a woman who stand by a road and wait to take some photographs with their camera. Thus, we constantly witness people through the lenses of the cameras, including the camera man of the very same film, or see people who want to capture beautiful natural scenes by audiovisual means. These cameras change to windows through which we watch people.

Thus, one can claim that the film deals with men, dogs and horses. Moreover, by looking through the same apparently random images, one can detect a thought, if not a narration. Although it may seem a little naturalistic, but one cannot deny the parallelism and resemblance between man, dogs and horses. In the first scene, we see a couple, the man kissing a woman. In the scene where we see a young couple again with their cameras beside the road with a beautiful landscape, we see the man who approaches the woman, sits behind her and leans on her back. This physical proximity is immediately followed by a pair of dogs making love in their own animal way, licking each other. In a scene, the horses, which are in a stable somewhere in Cuba, move toward each other which this also implies a kind of sensuality. If not pushing it too far, the motive of water in the scenes intensifies the link and similarity between men, dogs and horses. From the very first scene where the man puts the tape on the tape recorder and then watches the film with natural landscape and flowers, we hear first music and then the sound of running water or dripping water from the sink facet. In the next scene, we see a dog entering a pond in a marshy place with the very conspicuous sound of the water in which the dog moves; the dog drinks water too. In the scene of the horses we see someone pouring water on the horses and next they move towards a trough. Later, we see the scene with a woman drinking too sitting next to a lake over which a boat is sailing. Then, we see the camera focused on a blue sea that is seen through two walls, which form a kind of a frame or window again, with an urn on the platform. Since water is the archetype of life and in Freudian psychology the symbol of sexual derives, the film represents the instinctual desires common among all creatures: men, dogs and horses. In the last scene, we see the sea again with a man on the beach with swimming suit who is standing a few steps from a dog playing in the sand.

This fact that we go to different places like Austria, India, Zimbabwe, Cuba, Turkey, Italy – that is Europe, Asia and Africa – endows the movie with a universal setting. In other words, we deal with human and animal species in all over this globe. Furthermore, despite the variety of scenes filled with motion, sound, music and life – the sound of water, the sound of nature and birds which caress the ears all throughout – there is some sense of expectancy (pointed out by Zaven Ghukasian in his debate with the director in a discussion session) traced in the film. Among the human beings, we have the waiting eyes of the woman next to the lake, which turns into a slow motion scene. When she is drinking, she gazes at an uncertain point. The two young man and woman waiting beside the road with their camera reinforce this sense of expectancy. The gradual fading away of the scenes into darkness instead of sudden cut of the scenes intensifies this sense of expectancy as if expectation resumes instead of coming to an end.

The next point which seems curious, again according to the present writer’s view, is the fact that animals seem to be in direct connection with nature, but men have a mediated or indirect connection with nature. But what secures this connection is the wonderful phenomenon of art. The man in the first scene associates with nature through film and music. Later, we see a man again, half naked, who goes to rest with the music of opera. Most of the people mean to hunt the moments of nature with their cameras and their art of photography. The focus of the camera on a painting, where a nun is offering a bouquet of flowers to someone, refers to nature both within the frame of a painting and to the painting as an artistic product whose beauty man enjoys and through which he can associate with the world of reality.

In sum, the supposedly irrelevant and random images, function as a cluster of images in poetry and what is important is the sensation and feeling they render; this leads to the possibility and formation of different interpretations. Each observer may have a different and independent view which does not necessarily contradict others and if it does, it is still acceptable as long as it can be convincingly justified by the texture of the work. Windows, Dogs And Horses by Michael Pilz is not an exception. In the session with a big number of audience, different insights and comments were proposed each of which could open a window to deeper apprehension of the film. In the modern world of today, if a work is so impressive and moving to enkindle such sparks, it is considered praiseworthy and artistic.

© Helen Ouliaei Nia