Monday, January 29, 2007

The Ruin Movie

Here's a marvelously beautiful six-minute film adaptation of The Ruin, with voice-over in Old English and subtitles in modern English. Good enough that I might just make my Brit Lit I students watch it as an assignment.


  1. Anonymous8:15 AM

    I'll take the hint...

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  2. I just realized last night that the Stuart Lee who directed and narrated this short film is the Stuart Lee who co-wrote The Keys of Middle-Earthwith Elizabeth Solopova.

    As I know he'll be reading the comments here, perhaps our Tolkienistas might also want to discuss his book?

  3. Anonymous8:55 AM


    Many thanks for bringing people's attention to the film. The background to this was that at Oxford we run a regular film competition where we ask students to choose a short extract from a piece of literature and make a short DV film.

    In the course of running this I wanted to explore what would happen if I tried to do this with an Old English poem, where the narrative is often ambiguous or obscure. So, one cold day I trotted off with a willing volunteer to a local disused cement factory and took some shots, and then put them together in a montage with a voice over of the Old English. I went for Modern English subtitles and Old English narration which I think is the best, although with a poem such as 'The Battle of Maldon' I would probably have some Old English with the direct speech.

    I wanted to try a few others but so far have not found the time ('Deor' was going to be my next project). If I can get a grant I may 'commission' some more from students but I'd encourage anyone else to have a go. It would be great to have a larger collection.

    Stuart Lee
    University of Oxford

  4. Anonymous2:47 PM

    I had never really heard Old English before, and it is, in a sense, beautiful. I had to watch the movie twice, for I was so caught up watching that I barely followed the subs, so first I will speak on the movie. Did Lee take a David Lynch film class, and if he did, was he valedictorian? The mixture of the live action along with the photographs was unusual at first, but then understood. I wouldn't call the shots "sweeping" but they were obviously well thought out. As for the poem, it is okay, I had to look it up on the internet and read it, and it is sad.

    Chase Woods

  5. Anonymous3:23 PM


    I think it is interesting that we've watched/read the Ruin right around the same time we talked about Troy in class. This poem could be speaking of a great British city just as easily as it could be speaking about Troy after it's tragic Greek end.

  6. Anonymous4:01 PM

    I thought that the images combined with the poem gave it modern relevance. The images merged with the musical quality of the words to convey a sense of desolation. I appreciated the fact that the poem was read in Old English because it caused me to mentally connect the industrial ruins with some mysterious history. It made me see the abandoned industrial buildings with a more wondering eye. I liked the way the poem made me look at the familiar sight in a fresh way.
    -Laura Brent

  7. Anonymous4:18 PM

    I agree with Chase, I had to watch it twice because I found myself watching the movie and not the subtitles. Artistically, I think it's very interesting. The poem itself is very sad and I think the variation of the old photographs shown throughout the video and bare grounds emphasize this point.

    Shanna Clark

  8. Anonymous9:39 PM

    Dr. Nokes,

    I enjoyed watching the video, though, in contrast to a few that have commented, I was more caught up in trying to see if I could recognize any words in Old English through the subtitles, than in the video. I found the reading of the language quite intriguing. I enjoyed hearing words such as "burst," "broken," and "silver," because I could kind of recognize them. :) But, nevertheless, nice video.

    I will also unashamedly say that I have listened to Gregorian Chants a bit and the music reminded me of them, and added to the somber mood. Is that the music that was used? Either way, I'm a fan.

    Erin Warde

  9. Anonymous10:03 AM

    This clip was very interesting. It had a sennse of the Holocaust to me and also a relation with the bible when it stated about pestilence.

    Michael Travis

  10. Anonymous3:48 PM

    I think that the film helps you understand the poem. By watching the film, I felt as if I were there during the poem session. I listened to the poem several times to see how many words I could recognize. I could recognize a few but not many. Overall, great video and poem glad I watched it!

  11. Anonymous5:53 PM

    I, like Nina, found it interesting that the Ruin is comparable to our recent discussion of Troy.

    However, my attention was drawn more to the imagery and the video
    itself. Reading/hearing the poem alone evokes sadness, yet being able to actually visualize the message of the poem intensifies those feelings and emotions of sadness, loss, etc.

    ---Anna Snell

  12. Anonymous11:30 PM

    Allow me to be the dissenter amongst the ranks here. I actually found the video a trifle boring. Writing the poem down and re-reading it to myself actually gave me a much stronger appreciation of the work than watching the video did. It just seemed a little arrogant to me, trying so hard to create this aura of mysticism and forcing the reader to attempt to relate it to more contemporary settings, rather than just appreciating it in the setting and context of which it was written.

    I did like that it was read in the original Olde English. The words, though I couldn't understand them, were much prettier in the original tongue than they were when I read the modern English aloud to myself.

    As for the poem itself, I didn't care for it much the first time I sat throught the video, but upon writing it down and analyzing it, I can say that I actually enjoyed it. It contains some great imagery, and I like the repetition of single word lines, like 'Shorn. Fallen. and Withered. Departed.' I've always been a fan of one word lines. I also appreciated how abrupty it ends, that's the best way to end a long, descriptive poem, suddenly and sorrowfully.

    I thought it was interesting that the original author attributed the loss of the city wholly to fate(wyrd) and fortune.

    I guess that's it for this obnoxiously long comment. In closing, I liked the poem, didn't much care for the video.

    ~Matt Trammell

    P.S.: a/s/l? wtmirl?

  13. Anonymous11:51 PM

    WOW! I had to watch the movie several times because everytime I felt so entranced by the language that I was not reading it in modern Eglish translation. I thought the language was both beautiful and eerie. It was as though i could feel the meaning and sorrow of the poem before I even read it. I feel that much is lost in the translation of literature. This movie makes me very interested to hear other works read in their original vernacular or language.

    Erin Lorino

  14. Anonymous9:21 PM

    The guy who was walking towards us from the ruin reminds us something that happened 1000 years ago or longer. What I want to say is that a lot of events in the past have been forgotten as well as the old English. Will there be any scholar who can read and do research about it? Will there be anyone to remember us in the future?

  15. Anonymous12:20 PM


  16. Great advice and insight, Dr. Nokes. (Particularly because it's exactly what I've observed and articulated, not as well as you, before! Great minds and all that! *LOL*) I would add to keep a broad mind about what blogs to link/comment on. My blog isn't greatly concerned with medieval studies, but I link to you and Dr. Drout because I find your blogs enjoyable and worth a recommendation. I doubt that I send tons and tons of traffic your way, but I'm sure I'm good for a click-thru or two every month.

    So, basically, don't be too narrow in your vision of who you should get a link from.

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