Years ago, Germany-based filmmaker Patrick Mueller stumbled upon Walt Whitman’s poetry collection Leaves of Grass and immediately recognized how its preface, a timeless piece on living life with kindness, humility, and compassion, resembles his own filmmaking philosophy.
"He calls for a poetry of supreme engagement: a poetry of the mind, body and soul... This 're-examining of all you have been told' brought me in 2013 to the LomoKino. I liked the way of creating unique streams of images very much. It’s such a simple and powerful tool that brought me back to the roots of film making," he adds.
It took him three years to completely translate Whitman's words to moving images with a LomoKino and an expired roll of film. He recalls: "I went into the woods of my hometown and started shooting with some expired Fuji Superia ASA 800 that a friend gave me. After years of shooting digital, this was a very liberating experience."
Among the thought-provoking passages of Whitman he used in his movie, it's the opening line that resonates with him the most. "The beginning of the preface sounds so simple, isn’t it? In our daily life, we tend to forget the beautiful things that surround us. We should take a short break and enjoy beauty in front of us. It can be a tree whose leaves are moving in the wind, the sparkling sea at the coast, a purring cat, a certain light when you look out of the window—all of these are brief glimpses of beauty. The camera is a good tool for memorizing these moments that aren’t repeatable," he expounds.
This is what you shall do offers a temporary refuge from the drowning noise of the world. The wisdom of Whitman, spoken by his fellow filmmaker Brian Wilson, floated against the sound of chirping birds and rustling leaves, offering a soothing sanctuary for one to reflect and reexamine one's humanity. While the visuals, which focus on the subtle beauty of nature, is a welcome complement to the ebb and flow of words.
"In an increasingly unstable world out of control on many fronts, Whitman’s words can be helpful. Compassion, humility, love towards the earth, animals and people could change a lot, when everyone of us is actively living them," he shares. "That’s why poetry and literature are so important. One begins to think, or as what Whitman said, 'Re-examine all you have been told'. Poetry isn’t something far away but it is in the very essence of our humanity."
Aside from This is what you shall do, Mueller made another well-received short movie based on Arthur Rimbaud's L’éternité. He has been previously featured in the Lomography magazine where he talked about his creative process and translating poetry into moving images.