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

Jeffrey Overstreet departed the Patheos network in order to escape click-bait advertisements that were offending him and his readers. He will re-launch Looking Closer at lookingcloser.org soon. He is the author of The Auralia Thread, a four-volume fantasy series that begins with Auralia's Colors, and a memoir of "dangerous moviegoing" called Through a Screen Darkly. He teaches creative writing and film studies; speaks internationally about art and faith; served as Writer-in-Residence at Covenant College; and is employed by Seattle Pacific University as a project manager, copyeditor, and writer.