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Once I passed

Walt Whitman is one of the most important poets in American literature. His main work, Leaves of Grass, was written over a period of forty years, and describes human nature, society, and the natural world, both physically and philosophically.

Many have speculated about Whitman's private life, to this day. Whitman never wrote publicly about his personal relationships. In 1860, he published his poem "Once I Passed Through a Populous City", an aphoristic account of a romantic relationship with an unknown woman. In 1925, the original handwritten copy of the poem was discovered, in which Whitman writes, however, not about a woman but about an affair with a man in an anonymous city, which may have been his first physical experience of love. Whitman did not dare to publish the original version of his poem, because of the social prejudices of his time. To this day, only the altered version is printed in most anthologies.

"Once I passed" is dedicated, on the one hand, to the obviously autobiographical context with all its personal drama, and on the other hand to the content of the poem itself, the profoundly quiet, yet powerful story of two lovers.

  • Martin Gerigk
    Haiku, Otonashi, Structures of Nature, Energy, Rain
  • Martin Gerigk
  • Martin Gerigk
  • Ian W. Hill
    Key Cast
    "Voice 1"
  • David Finkelstein
    Key Cast
    "Voice 2"
  • Philipp Zdebel
    Key Cast
    "Voice 3"
  • Nikola Gocić
    Collage Art
  • Martin Gerigk
    Music Composition
  • Martin Gerigk
    Editing & Animation
  • Project Type:
    Animation, Experimental, Short
  • Genres:
  • Runtime:
    10 minutes
  • Completion Date:
    January 1, 2022
  • Production Budget:
    3,500 USD
  • Country of Origin:
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
Director Biography - Martin Gerigk

Martin Gerigk (*1972) is a composer of contemporary music. His repertoire includes compositions for orchestra and chamber music, as well as several solo concertos. His compositions are performed nationally and internationally including in Korea, Japan, USA, England, Finland, Austria and Switzerland. In this context he works together with renowned international soloists and ensembles.

In addition to his compositional work he is known for his remarkable audiovisual art and experimental films which focus on inherent synesthetic connections of sound and visual perceptions. Besides creating interwoven aural and visual landscapes of music, nature sounds and video sequences one important aspect of his art is the illustration of the hidden poetry of nature phenomena and sciences.

His experimental films won several international prizes and were screened at noted festivals like Asolo Film Festival, International Digital Arts Festival Videoformes, Girona Film Festival, Salento International Film Festival, Columbus International Film & Animation Festival, USA Film Festival, New Jersey Film Festival, Sidney International Film Festival, Fargo Film Festival, Sherman Oaks Film Festival, Canberra Short Film Festival, Film and Video Poetry Symposium Los Angeles, Syracuse Film Festival or ZEBRA Poetry Film Festival.

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Director Statement

I came across the original version by chance many years ago. I was touched by the unexpected turn of this love story, but also depressed by the tragic self-censorship. I was cautious about creating a film from the text. I hesitated for many years before working on it. Whitman circles around the inescapable affection of the two lovers. The depth and intensity of their love are not revealed in direct descriptions, but only through the approaching loss of this love. A recurring awareness tears the viewer apart emotionally, and yet, only through this, frees its inner beauty and truth.

During the creation of the individual scenes, my focus was not only on the narrative perspective, but above all on the visual details and the rhythmic alignment of the animations. In this context, it was not easy to write the music for the film. There were several frustrating attempts that were close to the mood but not close enough to the emotional aspects of the poem. It was only after I managed to free my mind from self-imposed expectations that the music emerged, as if by itself, a mixture of tonal and experimental musical sequences for string quartet, interwoven with text spoken by three voices. I deliberately wrote music that is exclusively dedicated to and subordinate to the poem.

After my short film "Otonashi", "Once I passed" is the second collaboration with the exceptionally talented Serbian collage artist Nikola Gocić. Again a wonderful and intense collaboration that always felt like telepathy. As such, the visual style is primarily based on old photos of New York and narrative collages brought to life through complex animations.

For the three voice actors, I was able to recruit Ian W. Hill and David Finkelstein from New York, both multi-talented filmmakers, artists, actors and musicians. The third speaking role was recorded by Philipp Zdebel, a versatile American-German musician who has already worked on several other projects of mine. It was an incredibly exciting collaboration with all the performers. I couldn't have asked for better voices for my project!

For the recording of the string quartet parts, in addition to Roman Brnčić, Tom Morrison, Rafael Guevara, I would like to thank above all Martin Schminke, who has been an artistic companion as a violinist for many years and has already performed numerous music compositions of mine.

Why did I make this film? The reason is simple: Whitman has created, with "Once I Passed Through a Populous City", one of the most profound and unvarnished portrayals of human love - intense, universal and true. And it is this truth that I want to pay tribute to.