Stanzas

In the brief period when someone actually trusted me to teach or mentor about various subjects, my consistent piece of advice was, “you have to master the rules before you break them.” The art of living life is often like navigating between the safe, stable structure of rules against the unsafe, creativity of imagination. Which brings us to Alicja Jasina’s animated short, Stanzas.

Stanzas is Jasina’s visual interpretation of Aldous Huxley’s poem of the same name. I’m no expert on poetry, more like a casual bystander. My understanding is that Huxley’s poem is about the evolving nature of human thought.

Thought is an unseen net wherein our mind
is taken and vainly struggles to be free.

In our youth, limitations are placed on our thoughts. We’re told what to think and what to believe. As time passes, our mind becomes restless and struggles to break free of these rules and limitations.

Jasina’s short opens with a narrator (P.J. Stoppleworth) reciting Huxley’s poem with a smooth jazzy background. Then sleek, crisp geometric lines appear, creating rigid shapes and interacting with the text of the poem. Then the struggle begins, and these sharp lines are challenged, ending with a random chaotic display of paint being poured on canvas. You just have it see the short. Words can do no justice to this six-minute short film.

Jasina, though, had a few challenges to face that I don’t think were 100% conquered. The sound mixing was an issue, P.J. Stoppleworth’s narration often competed with the music, and his voice-over needed to standout more. The other problem is poetry is a medium meant for the written word or in recitation. Strangely enough, the visuals now become a distraction to the short’s foundation, which is Huxley’s poem. Your brain is now in conflict asking, “What am I seeing?” with “What is he saying?”  The abstract word-pictures of Huxley finds itself taking a back seat to the Jasina’s imaginative visuals. Just a suggestion but running the poem in subtitle form might help the viewer.

Stanzas is a wonderful short to watch. It is more art than it is a linear narrative. Jasina uses animation beautifully to create a moving picture to complement Huxley’s words. It’s definitely worth watching as in introduction to poetry and Huxley himself. In his poem, Huxley takes a thought, an abstract idea, and paints a picture of it with words. He ultimately brings that idea to life over three “stanzas.”

Stanzas (2018) Directed by Alicja Jasina. Narrated by P.J. Stoppleworth.

7 out of 10 stars

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