This AudiAnnotate research use case is a set of annotated scenes from Sara Colangelo’s film The Kindergarten Teacher (2018). These audiovisual annotations represent a digital blue-print for the film analysis in my dissertation chapter, “Right, Voice: Wrong Body: The Kindergarten Teacher, Poetic Address, and Voice as Possession;” at the same time, these annotations and the process of creating them for AudiAnnotate has shaped my chapter’s argument about the public nature of poetic voice and the ambivalence of moving from metaphors of poetic voice to their embodiment on screen. This chapter forms part of the overarching project of my dissertation Shooting Script: Poetry, Film, and Form that seeks to explore the formal and theoretical crosscurrents of narrative film and post-45 American poetry. Before I describe the theorization of poetic voice on screen that the process of creating these annotations for AudiAnnotate facilitated, I would like to provide some background information on the film itself and the theories of poetic voice that have concurrently informed my work on this project. In the future, a longer more fleshed out academic essay will be available discussing how the process of annotating for AudiAnnotate informs my argument in my dissertation chapter.
The Kindergarten Teacher (2018), directed by Sara Colangelo, is a tricky film to categorize in terms of genre; equal parts literary drama based around poetry written by the contemporary American poets Kaveh Ahkbar and Ocean Vuong and thriller about obsession, it is a Netflix distributed remake of a 2014 Israeli indie film of the same title by Navad Lapid. The original Israeli film focuses more on poetry as resistance to a militarized society and the construction of race in an Israeli context rather than centering poetry by major contemporary poets and implicitly staging an ambivalence towards the source of poetic voice as Colangelo’s remake does (in fact, Lapid wrote many of the poems used in the original film). The Kindergarten Teacher (2018) keeps the film’s overall narrative arc: a kindergarten teacher and aspiring poet feels the weight of her family life and the marginalization of poetry in American society when she discovers a six year old student reciting precocious sounding poetry; the teacher plagiarizes his poetry as her own, has an affair with her poetry workshop leader, but, reveals that the boy is the poems’s author during a poetry performance. However, from here, the plot takes a turn towards the thriller as the teacher stalks and ultimately kidnaps her student, hoping to take him to Canada, before he calls the police and she is apprehended. However, my investigation into the film uses this generic mélange to dig deeper into how The Kindergarten Teacher’s film form, particularly editing and cinematography, demonstrates an ambivalence around the on-screen embodiment of abstractions that have been used to theorize poetic voice: the speaker, address, and persona particularly.
In my chapter, I engage with a number of theories of poetic voice and address—from John Stuart Mills’s 1833 “On Poetry” to William Waters’s consideration of the public nature of poetic address and Susan Stewart’s theory of voice as possession—to consider how the film form used in The Kindergarten Teacher stage an ambivalence around poetic voice as private and unified, a poet taking on a persona, and allow us to re-consider persona poetry in which the speaker’s positionality vastly differs from that of the poet.
In completing this set of annotations by using screencast to makes clips from scenes of poetic performance in The Kindergarten Teacher, then annotating those scenes using AdobePremier and uploading my annotations to AudiAnnotate, I closely observed how the film’s form stages poetic performance. I noticed that many scenes simultaneously attempt to stage poetic composition and recitation as private, with the poet removed from the world around them through the use of shallow focus, and also public and necessarily addressed as these shots were often situated within the short form for staging dialogue on screen: shot-reverse-shot sequences. Moreover, by noticing how the camera, in a sense, edits poetry by editing the scene, I was also able to see how a poem’s meaning shifts through performance and film editing altering enjambment.
Stanley Cavell writing the The World Viewed: Reflections on the Ontology of Film (1971) exclusively from his memory discusses his method as avoiding writing about film that describes “a mere conjunction of technical details together with a plot outline…;” instead suggesting, “in the paucity of humane criticism dealing with whole films and in the lack of fit between their technical description and a phenomenological account of them, movies have achieved the condition of music” (12). By using AudiAnnotate to annotate these clips I feel I have merged what Cavell calls “technical description,” an interest in film and poetic form, with ”a phenomenological account of” poems and films by situating these descriptions in the recording itself present in my clips for Audi Annotate. I hope that these annotations, as they connect to individual scenes, foreground a sense of the experience of film viewing into my writing about film.