With the Premiere of the new documentary The Palindromists, we thought our readers would be intrigued to see a variety of short films that are structured as palindromes.
They look the same forwards and backwards.
(Read C.J. Hirschfield’s review of The Palindromists )
Thank you to Puzzle Canon for collecting the first four shorts in 2015. Read what they have to say”
Unlike linguistic palindromes, which are reversed letter by letter, film palindromes are continuously reversed, more like ambigrams (future post!). As with musical canon, artistry is required to pull off the symmetry with effective results.
These are generally art films, requiring such integration of writing, cinematography, scoring, sound, and direction, that few have been created outside the academy. However, such an endeavor requires enough effort that amateur attempts rarely get far. Most palindromic films are entitled “Palindrome”. Here I’ll feature four short films that vary drastically in their palindromic complexity, saving the most impressive for last.
- Ce palindrome: drôle impasse by OLIVIER KLUYSKENS
Although the sound and speech are not entirely palindromic, the score is, and they agree with the general palindromic flow. A very well-crafted and simple conception.
- Dan and naD – a Palindromic Sketch by Dan [and Dan]
In this clever film, both the sound and the picture are palindromic. There is an added symmetry in that through special effect the two characters are played in the same scene by the same actor, the two sitting together at a table. For one of these characters time proceeds in a forward direction, and for the other it moves in reverse –– that is, until the midpoint when an event causes the tables to turn. Despite the fact that their temporal directions are incongruent with one another, the characters interact, acknowledging the fact that the other is afflicted with reverse behavior.
Dan and Dan Films is a Youtube channel featuring two copies of host Dan in duplicate and sometimes triplicate, though ordinarily moving forward through time.
- Palindrome: A Film Without Direction (1993) by David Melito
This film asserts its humor even from the title. It entertains with a clever sort of self-consciously reversed surrealistic approach, interspersing reversed dialogue with ordinary dialogue. At the midpoint of the film is a silent-film-type card reading “Middle”.
The film presents a self-conscious palindrome, engaging the viewer by including numerous short clips that have both forward and reverse aspects. For example the scene of a man walking backwards through the snow is first presented in reverse so that the character is walking toward the camera, but with his tracks disappearing. Another scene presents a trio of women singing a round.
“Some feel that the afterworld is backwards. People yell insults at the grave of a loved one, and their crosswords become compliments on the other side.”
The film ends with several voices chanting “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”
- Symmetry: A Palindromic Film (2014?) by Yann Pineill
This is the most intricate and successful palindromic film I have found. Both the sound and visuals are artfully handled. And the plot is clear and compelling.
There is no real dialogue, except for a brief radio broadcast, just before the midpoint and first introduced in reverse and partially obscured by static noise. The actual midpoint hinges on Haydn’s palindromic minuet which follows the radio static — a particularly artful move, as the minuet serves as the axis of temporal symmetry. (I’ll feature Haydn’s palindrome soon; stay tuned.) Although the rest of the musical score leans heavily on long swells and arpeggios, timbres without marked accents make the reversal seamless.
There is an equally artful and clever avoidance of directional motion: Travel is always by train, not car; walking scenes are extremely brief, with an emphasis on lateral motion; cut to a scene of tea being poured, but we see only a column connecting the kettle and cup, and cut away; two characters facing each other, one stepping backwards, and so on.
Another feature of symmetry that is unique to this film: As the film reverses back on itself, the images are reversed, left becoming right, and vice-versa as the camera seems to pan through a mirror.
A series of Palindrome Poems, many written by students can be found on the sidebars of these videos.
The most popular is Jonathan Reed’s Lost Generation inspiring many students to write their own and make films versions.
A reading of the poem by Washoe County School District Middle and High School Students.
There are musical palindromes.
Read about Martha Horst’s Orchestral Palindrome entitled Cloud Gate, inspired by Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate sculpture in Chicago.
A violin duet in which both violinists read the same sheet of music from opposite sides. Attributed to Mozart
To The Palindrome is a 2018 feature from Argentina. For more information and to rent it, go here.