Although both poetry and film can at times reach pinnacles or artistic excellent they are not always the most interesting combination. How many times have you seen a poem on television only to have it accompanied by a) a sunset/rise, b) waves crashing against a shore, or c) mist? However there does appear to be a growing cannon of films about poets or touching on the subject of poetry.
The first that I decided to investigate was The Edge of Love, which opened the Edinburgh Film Festival in 2008. This poet that this film claims is Dylan Thomas. When approaching the film I did not know that much about Thomas. Under Milk Wood was one of my fathers favorite poems so I had read and watched it several times, and the phrases from it still stay with me. But apart from that, his alcoholism, his nationality and the fact he had written for radio I knew little about him.
The film is mainly about the women in his life. His wife Ciatlan and his first love Vera. The two women deal with their own failings, marriages and emotional battles, childbirth and abortion in a background of the blitz and war torn Britain. In the film, Thomas pretty much just carries on doing what he wants to do, and gets a bit sulky when one of them turns their attention away from him for five minutes.
Although the director has beautifully rendered some of Thomas’ poetry, and the film has disturbingly realistic portrayals of the London blitz, at the end of the day the most poetry comes in the form of Vera’s husband played by the fascinating Cillian Muprhy. In his letters home, in his love for his wife, in the personal destruction he faces from the horror of war. Although an officer, among the poet, night club singer and nymphomaniac he is the nearest the story can come to an everyman character, and as such it is his life, love and beliefs which tells us the most about that time and place.
Unfortunately this film did not satisfy any curiosity about Thomas the writer, how he came to writing, what inspired him, how he progressed. I guess, I shall have to rely on reading a book. His character is portrayed as a weak, selfish and vain man, and we are hown no redemaning features.
Is this a film about poetry – No. Is this a film about Dylan Thomas – No. It is however a film about difficult human relationships, with a touch of war thrown in.