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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About Jeffrey Overstreet

Don't you hate these ugly click-bait ads? Visit LookingCloser.org for a bigger, better, ad-free version of Jeffrey Overstreet's blog. Jeffrey Overstreet is the senior film critic for Christianity Today, the author of Through a Screen Darkly and Auralia's Colors, and he teaches writing and film at Seattle Pacific University, Houston Baptist University, and Northwest University.