A Key to Modern British Poetry

By Lawrence Durrell | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 7
T. S. ELIOT

THE film is the great neglected art-form of today. It has not realized its function, which is to marry images seen and images heard, marry poetry and picture, into a new artistic form: it is still nailed to the cross of naturalism, while its content is, in a crude sort of way, the content of those old moralities which occupied the position later taken by the dramas of Kyd and Marlowe. Yet despite these defects the cinema is an admirable metaphor for us to choose when we come to discuss modern poetry. There are many analogies of technique between even the worst film and the best modern poem: and the comparison is invaluable if we are to get any sense out of The Waste Land, the poem by T. S. Eliot which has exercised such a great influence over modern writing in England.

If the puzzled average reader could surrender himself to it as he surrenders himself to a film he might feel the visual transitions of the images and the plot for what they are--skilful organizations of the author's moods. Perhaps you remember the long track-shot in Gone With the Wind where the camera shuttles slowly across the battlefield, picking up here and there different items in the catalogue of war--a charred bivouac, a huddle of corpses, an overturned cart. Your eye takes in these images and interprets through them the meaning of war, of disaster, of bloodshed, without the intellectual content of the picture being explicit. Then again, in another film, Citizen Kane, you perhaps remember the closing sequence where the camera explores the crowded cellars of the millionaire tycoon's palace: it roves slowly over the immense rubbish-heap of

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