Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Requiem for a Dream

I’ve long been a fan of Nick Rombes‘ work. By day, Nick is Chair of the English department at the University of Detroit Mercy, but that doesn’t begin to describe his wide range of interests or his vast talents. Consider just two of several books he’s written, Cinema in the Digital Age and A Cultural Dictionary of Punk, and you’ll get a bit of an idea why I’m a fan.

One of his most innovative ideas is his ongoing 10/40/70 project, in which he analyzes screen captures from films taken at the 10, 40, and 70 minute marks. Based loosely on that idea, he’s come up with an interesting new project and invited me to take part.

Darren Aronofsky’s second film Requiem for a Dream was released ten years ago this month, and to mark the occasion, Rombes has created Requiem // 102, a project for which he has invited 102 contributors to write about a screen capture from each of the film’s 102 minutes. There will be one new entry each weekday, which should take us into the new year. The project excited me for several reasons.

First, I’ve never seen the film. I’m aware of its reputation and its significance, and have owned the DVD for more than five years now, but until now, I’ve never had a compelling reason to watch it. That changes now. Second, I’m a huge fan of creative work based on constraints. In my brief time teaching literature to 12-year-olds, I delighted in forcing them to write poetry in esoteric forms like the villanelle. Despite their initial protests, they were often delighted to find that they’d written something better than they ever could have imagined. And perhaps related to the idea of constraints, I’ve never really written about film in this way before. I’ve been reading Rombes ravenously because he writes about the more formal aspects of film that I’ve previously left unexamined, and so I’m excited to be asked to rise to the challenge of writing in an unfamiliar way about an unfamiliar film.

The first two entries in the project are already up, and Chuck Tryon and Catherine Grant have set the bar pretty high. It’s also a bit crazy to me that I’ve been somehow admitted to this group of film professors and academics. I like that the expectations are so high, and I’m eager to challenge myself to produce something on par with the other participants.

You can read more about Requiem // 102 on the site’s About page, and you can also follow the project on Twitter.

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