What Makes a Great Film? Here’s an Answer … from a Poet.

In a book called Nine Gates: Entering the Mind of Poetry, by the poet Jane Hirshfield, the author takes us through a series of exemplary poems, showing us how they deliver limited information, fleeting images, and create a complex and exquisite experience for the reader.

On page 22, Hirshfield looks back at the poems for a moment, finding commonality between them. When she does, she explains why it is that they work so well.

I’m struck by the fact that her description also sums up why so many of my favorite films have become just that … my favorite films. So many of the greats work just like this:

“In each poem, the reader is given the data of image and only enough information to understand what terrain he is in, then left to complete the work himself: to furnish what has been left out with his own awareness, poetic concentration, and knowledge of inner and outer worlds.”


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Jeffrey Overstreet has relaunched a bigger, better version of this blog at LookingCloser.org. The new Looking Closer doesn't have any of the trashy click-bait advertisements that you're probably seeing all over this Patheos page. So give yourself a break.