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Pilgrims – by John Doan

What time can do to a man? Joseph Brodsky's obsession becomes a short film

2016 | 5 - 10 | Black & White | Germany | Time | Ukraine | Visual Poem

What time can do to a man? Joseph Brodsky’s obsession becomes flesh in John Doan’s body. Based on the poem of the same name written by the Russian poet awarded the 1987 Nobel Prize in Literature, Pilgrims is directed by the young Ukrainian-Vietnamese actor/director, who has also translated the poem from Russian. Produced by Reload Reality Films, an independent film production from Munich, the short film marks his fourth directorial step re-enacting one of Brodsky’s most heartbreaking and painful poems, translated from Russian by Doan himself. The lyrics were written in 1956-1957, when Brodsky was already well known in literary circles and was influenced by Boris Slutsky. An ode to action marked by a pronounced musicality, almost a jazz improvisation.

Doan returns this poetic intensity with a contemporary tone, which provides for natural set, the smooth music by Moby, and an enveloping but not abstract black and white, structured around a remarkable range of grey tones. The result is a tense and erratic visual poem like Brodsky’s life, who was charged with social parasitism by the Soviet authorities in a trial in 1964 — he was sentenced to five years hard labor and served 18 months on a farm in the village of Norenskaya — and was expelled from the Soviet Union in 1972, settling in Vienna and then in the United States with the help of W. H. Auden. A poetry of sorrow and painful distance that turns into a shout of freedom: Politicians are short lived. Poetry is forever.

Alessandro Zoppo

Alessandro Zoppo

Editor-in-Chief @ Good Short Films

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