Esperanto
Author: David Poulson


Esperanto and Cinema. Conclusion

Author: David Poulson
Published on: October 1, 1999

Introductory note for new visitors to the Esperanto Topic.

If you have only just begun to take an interest in Esperanto and wish to know some basic information about this fascinating subject, please start your reading at the first article of this series. Having already completed 43 articles, I am now at the stage of writing articles for those readers who have learned quite a lot about the Esperanto language and movement already, and who are now wanting to find out more than just the basic introductory information.

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In his essay, "Filmo en la Historio de Esperanto," which appeared in the May 1982 issue of the journal Monato, Arpad Abony-Nagy frustrates the reader with a tantalisingly brief mention of a 60-minute film called "Angoroj," the sound-track of which is entirely in Esperanto. We are told neither the date it was made, nor the country it was made in. No synopsis of the plot is given and there is no evaluative comment about the quality of the film itself. ( Of course, taking into account Bernd Wechner's remarks in the Discussion Forum associated with the previous Esperanto topic article, maybe Abony-Nagy was just being polite! ) We are, at least, told that the members of the cast were mainly "IAT-anoj" but then we are left to wonder just what that abbreviation means. I certainly have never heard of IAT and after a long and fruitless search through a near-contemporary (1985) issue of the Jarlibro of the Universala Esperanto-Asocio, I could find no trace of it among the national and special Esperanto organizations listed in that directory. If any readers of this Topic can solve this puzzle for me, I'll be very grateful but I have begun to suspect that IAT is a misprint for SAT.

Abony-Nagy does provide some useful information and tells us that the director of Angoroj was L. Mahe, the music was composed by Rene Texier, and some members of the cast were: Jana Ravselj, Srdjan Flego, Marc Darnault, Jean Thierry and Jack-Andre Rousseau. Photographs of all of these mentioned actors can be found in the article in Monato, but for more information about this film, you may have to purchase a copy of it on videotape for only 66 Dutch guilders.

Purchase from where, you ask? Well, this film and quite a number of other films with Esperanto sound-tracks can be obtained from the Universala Esperanto Asocio in the Netherlands. A list of currently available films from the UEA (plus 7 available from the Internacia Esperanto-Instituto), their prices and other information was recently published in the journal Eventoj and can be found at this link

I was interested to see that, among other titles, there is a dubbed version of the Oscar-winning film, Mefisto, and Lou Brook's production of the Esperanto translation of Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest. And a name you will see occurring repeatedly is that of Roman Dobrzynski, a Polish film-maker who has made a great contribution to Esperanto culture. I have a copy of a film he made in 1987 to celebrate Esperanto's 100th birthday and it contains footage shot from all over the world. It's a pleasure to watch and, of course, to listen to.

However, although there is a lot on offer at the Institute, one thing that you cannot buy there is a copy of the most important Esperanto film made so far. That film is Incubus, and was made by Leslie Stevens in 1965.

Leslie Stevens, who died on April 24th last year, was a very interesting and creative individual. He was born in Washington DC in 1924 and his father was a Vice-Admiral in the US navy who later took up a diplomatic posting at the US Embassy in London. As a result of his father's career move, Leslie, at the age of 11, was exposed to a Shakespeare production at the Old Vic as a result of which he decided that he would become a playwright. As it happens, I had a similar mind-blowing experience when I saw my first Shakespeare production at the Memorial Theatre, Stratford, but there the similarity ends. Here I am, writing for Suite101, while Leslie Stevens became associated with such popular TV series as The Outer Limits, Battlestar Galactica and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century.

In the film Incubus "Stevens created an imaginary, wind-swept place called Nomen Tuum, where beautiful demons stalk the earth in search of pure souls in order to destroy them." (I am quoting from a special web site devoted to this film which can be found at http://www.incubusthefilm.com/index.html ) According to other information found at this web-site, Stevens considered various solutions to the problem of what language to give his demonic characters "Succubus"and "Incubus" in order to represent their alien nature to maximum effect. First, a gibberish language was considered but that idea was rejected. Then, something like the language James Joyce used in Finnegan's Wake (which is also gibberish to most people) was contemplated. Next, Stevens considered the planned language "Volapuk", created by F. Schleyer in 1880, but finally he settled on Esperanto.

The star of Incubus, now a very well-known actor, is William Shatner, who has also had a very interesting and varied career, but Stevens chose actors who were not well-known for the other characters. By all accounts the finished result was a very good film and I'm pleased to learn that Incubus has now been provided with a digitally restored image and a re-mastered soundtrack, and is being made available to a new generation of Esperantists, nearly 40 years after its first appearance.

Finally, a word of thanks to Darold Booton, who wrote to me several days ago and told me that in the new Hollywood science fiction film, Gattaca, made in 1998, a female, synthesised voice is heard at the beginnning of the film saying, "Bonvenon al Gattaca urbo. La Gattaca horo estas dektri post la sepa." ELNA, the Esperanto Leage of North America, is given a credit for helping out.

It seems that we haven't said "Goodbye" to Hollywood after all. And maybe the previous topic article should have been headed "G^is la Revido to Hollywood". Well, let's hope that Esperanto will be used in many more films in the future.

The next article will begin a discussion of Esperanto and Science Fiction. I hope you'll join me again.

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