Document Type

Film Review

Publication Date



POEM is the feature-length debut for Ralf Schmerberg, a self-taught photographer and filmmaker known for his music videos of German bands Die Toten Hosen and Die Fantastischen Vier and his imaginative television commercials. Schmerberg and his collaborator, the writer Antonia Keinz, spent two years reading poetry to determine the final selection of 19 poems for the film project. The concept of creating a film devoted to visual interpretations of poetry was intriguing enough to attract big name actors, including Klaus Maria Brandauer, Meret Becker, Hannelore Elsner, Jürgen Vogel, and Hermann van Veen, as well as camera men who previously had worked with such renowned directors as Werner Herzog,Jim Jarmusch, and Wim Wenders. The rationale behind Schmerberg's choice of poems and the sequence of visualizations in the film is hard to identify, although all of the texts, ranging from Goethe's "Gesang der Geister über den Wassern" to ErnstJandl's ''glauben und gestehen," are linked by themes of love, loss, life, and death. Schmerberg melds his visual interpretations of each poem into a seamless flow of images, broken only occasionally by black screen and shifts in location. Shot by eight different camera men in seven different countries, POEM offers an exotic mix of settings matched by the panoply of styles and film stock, with segments of grainy, hand-held camera footage interspersed with vibrant color and somber black and white.

Publisher Statement

Copyright © 2010, The Johns Hopkins University Press. This article first appeared in German Studies Review 33:2 (2010), 480-481.

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