02 December 2010

Appendix to Part I: Blind Prophets

This is an appendix to the previous post. See also: Part II.

In research for the previous post, I came across this 1885 translation of Oedipus the King by E. D. A. Morshead. (As an aside, his Wikipedia entry is rather amusing.) The translation holds a strict meter, which I find infinitely preferable to the overly Americanized Fagles translation that is so common.

Walter Kaufmann's translation of the epigram (see image above) from Goethe:
Experience it deep in your mind,
As with a curse I now descend!
The human being is, his life long, blind;
Thus, Faustus, you shall meet your end.

Max Ernst, Oedipus Rex, 1922 (click for larger image).
Exhibit A:
Alack, alack, how deadly to be wise
Where wisdom profits not!
Exhibit B:
Thou, foster-child of timeless night, nor me
Nor any man who sees the sun canst harm.
(This in particular shows the inferiority of Fagles, who has: "Blind, / lost in the night, endless night that nursed you! / You can't hurt me or anyone else who sees the light-- / you can never touch me.")

Exhibit C:
A gale of seeming fortune sped thee on
But to a hell for harbour.

Two images of Homer, another blind prophet:

William-Adolphe Bouguereau, Homer and his Guide, 1874. Someone has paired this painting with a musical piece from The Thin Red Line: click here. (Also a larger version of the painting on that site.)

The idea that Homer was blind may have something to do with the similarity of the name to the word homeros, which meant "blind" in some ancient dialects.

Click for larger image. Photo source unknown.


Hectocotylus said...

A semi-related comment, which entered my mind because you mentioned The Thin Red Line:

Malick's films are treasure chests filled to the brim with references and quotes -- bona fide museums of collage art. I'm sure you've noticed many such things in his films before, but this video helps give an even better idea. Like Tarkovsky (and other filmmakers, of course - but who cares about them?), Malick quotes paintings as well, though, if memory serves, that video doesn't point out any. I wonder if that has something to do with why they selected the Hans Zimmer for the Bouguereau?

I know you don't esteem Malick quite as highly as I do, but the trailer for his new film, The Tree of Life, is supposed to make its way online this week. (It's going to be attached to The Black Swan. Perhaps you'll see it in the theater? I remember Aronofsky being an old favorite of yours; I doubt you still like him much). Since they have to use it to market the film to the general public, I don't expect the trailer to be very good, but I'm still curious.

I wouldn't be surprised if Tree of Life ends up as his crowning achievement (he's been wanting to make it since the 70s). Either that or a glorious, fascinating failure. He's tackling themes so absurdly large, from what I've heard, that it's almost impossible to pull off. (It has been my most anticipated film for two years running, and luckily I still know next to nothing about the plot outside of a few generalities.)

the curator said...

While it's sort of hard to imagine where the idea for using that Hans Zimmer piece came from, I don't think it's a bad pairing at all; in fact, the elements of sadness and foreboding fit perfectly with the painting, and the piece is elegant enough not to contrast too sharply with Bouguereau's academic style.

As far as Malick goes, I have always appreciated the use of music/sound in his films, which I am sure is as carefully considered on his part as everything else. I have always liked the incorporation of poetry and painting into film. I would be interested to know where Malick has used paintings, since nothing immediately comes to mind in the films I've seen.

I sincerely doubt I will see The Black Swan in theaters, and it's probably for the better--I would rather not have my perception of The Tree of Life spoiled by a trailer.

Anonymous said...

Malick? Never heard of him. However I did remember Thin Red Line coming out in movie theaters but I did not go to see it because at that time I was not in the mood to watch another war movie. Now I am curious...

The way you describe this Malick makes me think of other ' crazy (in a good way)visionary' directors like Herzog or Griffith (just watched Intolerance).

Anyway the lead that made me land here is your reference to Oedipus Rex in your search for blind prophets.

Alexander Mackendrick mentioned this play several times in his notes for film students and then edited by Paul Cronin in a book titled On Film-making An introduction to the craft of the director.

..and I do prefer the 1885 translation that you quote rather than American one.