Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Name Films Based off of Poems

So I picked up a Norton Critical edition of Beowulf today, with the Heaney translation (which, by virtue of being by Heaney is a contemporary poem in its own right) and a bunch of material at the back, including context (like passages from the Bible) an an essay arguing for the poem's aesthetic virtues by Tolkien (written for scholars at the time who were interested in the poem only for historical reasons). With the movie out, the conjunction of poetry and popular culture, kinda my thing, is too tempting to pass up, and so I am thinking about ways to teach Beowulf (the poem and the movie). I may just add it to one of my existing classes about poetry. I may design a course on Beowulf and Hamlet (about different kinds of violent protagonists). But I remembered the movie Troy and was wondering -- are there other films based off of poems that I cannot think of right now? "Literature to Film" is such an easy and popular class, I wondered if there was some way to create my own subset of this broad category -- "Poetry to Film."

A friend of mine, when asked this question, said Xanadu. So that joke has been taken.


Voice Of The Eagle said...

Would "What Dreams May Come" count?

Roger said...

"A Knight's Tale" is loosely based off of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales.

I think there is a short based on Coleridge's Rime of the Ancient Mariner.

The 1981 movie Excalibur is also loosely based on Thomas Malory's work (which I think is a poem).

Don Juan de Marco is a rewritten version of Byron's Don Juan.

T.S. Eliot's play _Murder in the Cathedral_ was written in verse.

I also found this really cool site which lists poems that were inserted into movies:

pla said...

There's a more literal 1972 adaptation of Canterbury Tales directed by Pasolini. It still strays a bit from the source, but it's much closer than A Knight's Tale.

Wikipeida, of course, already has a list of films based on poems going:


As does IMDB:


I had no idea Pumpkinhead was based on a poem, but I'd be pleased to know someone, somewhere is teaching a class that includes Pumpkinhead.

Timothy Callahan said...

Have you ever seen the Julien Temple film about the rivalry between Wordsworth and Coleridge? It's called "Pandaemonium," and it's quite poetry-heavy, although the plot turns into a Scooby-Doo episode. Watch it and you'll see what I mean. Actually, it's not as bad as I'm making it sound. It would be a good addition in a Poetry to Film class.

Then, of course, there's there's Julie Taymor's "Across the Universe" which I haven't seen, but it will probably be out on DVD sometime within the next year and if you want to call Beatles lyrics poetry, which you seem willing to do, then I think it might fit.

Jeff said...

"O Brother, Where Art Thou" can always be linked to Tennyson's "Ulysses."

Jason Powell said...

I think BBC America aired a miniseries -- set in contemporary times -- based on a few of the Canterbury Tales too. Can't remember much about it, although it couldn't have aired more than a couple of years ago.

Todd C. Murry said...

It's wierd that all the links above seem to have missed the first film I thought of - Ulysses, the late 50's Kirk Douglas version of the Odyssey. Seems like I saw this movie 4 or 5 times a year on saturday afternoons in the 70's.

Roger said...

Off topic...but for those of us who are Blakephiles, today is William Blake's 250th Birthday!!

Go out and read some Jerusalem today. Or at least a Song of Innocence or one of Experience, or maybe even two.

Dr. K said...

As someone who teaches Beowulf regularly in the British survey class, I got hammered with promotional material from the film: posters, lesson plans for incorporating the film into classes (which were totally useless), a copy of the script book, and other Neil Gaiman stuff. If you can score an exam copy of the script book, it's pretty nice, and it could be a useful text for comparing the poem to the film.

Geoff Klock said...

VoE: no way dude.

Roger, Pla: thanks

Tim: i rented that once but did not get far before I turned it off.

Jeff, Jason, tod, roger: thanks


Dr. K said...

Geoff--If you search around at www.harperacademic.com, you should be able to find how to order the desk or exam copy of the book. The book contains two drafts of the script (one from 1997), an early storyboard of the final battle, and early character designs from before Zemekis's involvement.

I'm guessing this will be one of those things that HarperCollins will be giving away like crazy at MLA this year.

Not Ultros said...

NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN is the first line of Shelley's "Sailing to Byzantium." So do the Coens get anything for effort?

Excellent film, too.

Geoff Klock said...

NU: forgive the poetry professor in me: you meant YEATS.