Poets on Film: A Black & White Biopic That Feels Like a Visual Poem
The 2013 drama Papusza tells the story of the so-called "first Romani poetess" and succeeds in elevating the personhood, if not the creative work, of its subject.
What does it mean to make a great biopic? What do we want from the genre as a whole? I suppose it’s some assemblage of these offerings:
Biography: the Capital-T Truth, and hopefully a whole lot of little-t truths, about the film’s subject
Intimacy: A feeling of closeness to the inner workings of someone who may feel one-dimensional to us
Humanization: a sense that while the subject is special, they are also like us in fundamental ways
Entertainment: for all their research, biopics are, after all, pics—we want to be amused and fascinated by the film as a film
What about biopics of poets and writers? Are there additional requirements for this subgenre? If so, they might be:
Language: Examples of the writer’s work that are written or shown in order to initiate new fans and delight existing ones
Purpose: A sense of what the writer’s work means to them emotionally, spiritually, and/or intellectually
In most of these ways, Papusza—the 2013 biopic of Polish-Romani poet Bronisława Wajs—is a triumph. But there is one item on this list that’s lacking…
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial
Subscribe to PopPoetry to keep reading this post and get 7 days of free access to the full post archives.