A Joan Miró-Inspired Animation of Federico García Lorca’s Poem, “Romance Sonámbulo”

What tod­dler is trans­fixed by a poem of trag­i­cal­ly thwart­ed desire?

Thou­sands of them, thanks to “The Sleep­walk­er,” ani­ma­tor Theodore Ushev’s cre­ative inter­pre­ta­tion of Fed­eri­co Gar­cía Lor­ca’s poem, “Romance Sonám­bu­lo.”

Ushev starts by scrap­ping the words, in favor of a pure­ly visu­al lan­guage that draws heav­i­ly on the work of Lorca’s con­tem­po­rary, sur­re­al­ist painter Joan Miró.

Would Lor­ca have approved?

Pos­si­bly. He had great admi­ra­tion for Miró, whose paint­ings he declared “the purest of all images” in a pub­lic lec­ture on mod­ern art at Grenada’s Athenaeum:

They come from dream, from the cen­ter of the soul, there where love is made flesh and incred­i­ble breezes of dis­tant sounds blow.

Ani­ma­tor Ushev is anoth­er who’s put a lot of stock in dreams:

I want­ed to cre­ate a joy­ful film, that makes the pub­lic hap­py – inex­plic­a­bly hap­py. The sur­re­al­ist move­ment was a play, a game itself. I often start my mas­ter­class­es with the quo­ta­tion, “The life is a dream (and every­thing is a game).” It is a mod­i­fied ver­sion of the roman­tic belief of anoth­er Span­ish writer – Pedro Calderón de la Bar­ca. This lit­tle film can be seen as such – an alle­go­ry over the joy and mys­tery of life.

His take may con­fuse those who’ve been debat­ing the orig­i­nal poem’s far-from-joy­ful mean­ing.

There are rec­og­niz­able forms … Lorca’s “gyp­sy girl,” for instance.

What’s going on?

Ask a tod­dler what’s he or she sees.

A wound­ed con­tra­band run­ner drag­ging him­self back to his for­bid­den lady love?

A grief-strick­en Juli­et throw­ing her­self in a cis­tern?

More like­ly, danc­ing, and lots of it, thanks to the irre­sistible score — Bul­gar­i­an musi­cian Kot­tarashky’s “Opa Hey.”

(Ushev made a con­scious deci­sion to expand the gyp­sy theme beyond Lorca’s native Andalucía to the Balkan region.)

“Romance Sonám­bu­lo”

Green, how I want you green.

Green wind. Green branch­es.

The ship out on the sea

and the horse on the moun­tain. 

With the shade around her waist 

she dreams on her bal­cony, 

green flesh, her hair green, 

with eyes of cold sil­ver. 

Green, how I want you green. 

Under the gyp­sy moon, 

all things are watch­ing her 

and she can­not see them.

Green, how I want you green. 

Big hoar­frost stars 

come with the fish of shad­ow 

that opens the road of dawn. 

The fig tree rubs its wind 

with the sand­pa­per of its branch­es, 

and the for­est, cun­ning cat, 

bris­tles its brit­tle fibers. 

But who will come? And from where? 

She is still on her bal­cony 

green flesh, her hair green, 

dream­ing in the bit­ter sea.

—My friend, I want to trade 

my horse for her house, 

my sad­dle for her mir­ror, 

my knife for her blan­ket. 

My friend, I come bleed­ing 

from the gates of Cabra.

—If it were pos­si­ble, my boy, 

I’d help you fix that trade. 

But now I am not I, 

nor is my house now my house.

—My friend, I want to die

decent­ly in my bed. 

Of iron, if that’s pos­si­ble, 

with blan­kets of fine cham­bray. 

Don’t you see the wound I have 

from my chest up to my throat?

—Your white shirt has grown 

thirsty dark brown ros­es. 

Your blood oozes and flees a

round the cor­ners of your sash. 

But now I am not I, 

nor is my house now my house.

—Let me climb up, at least, 

up to the high bal­conies; 

Let me climb up! Let me, 

up to the green bal­conies. 

Rail­ings of the moon 

through which the water rum­bles.

Now the two friends climb up, 

up to the high bal­conies.

Leav­ing a trail of blood. 

Leav­ing a trail of teardrops. 

Tin bell vines

were trem­bling on the roofs.

A thou­sand crys­tal tam­bourines 

struck at the dawn light.

Green, how I want you green, 

green wind, green branch­es. 

The two friends climbed up. 

The stiff wind left 

in their mouths, a strange taste 

of bile, of mint, and of basil 

My friend, where is she—tell me—

where is your bit­ter girl?

How many times she wait­ed for you! 

How many times would she wait for you, 

cool face, black hair, 

on this green bal­cony! 

Over the mouth of the cis­tern

the gyp­sy girl was swing­ing, 

green flesh, her hair green, 

with eyes of cold sil­ver. 

An ici­cle of moon

holds her up above the water. 

The night became inti­mate 

like a lit­tle plaza.

Drunk­en “Guardias Civiles”

were pound­ing on the door. 

Green, how I want you green. 

Green wind. Green branch­es. 

The ship out on the sea. 

And the horse on the moun­tain.

Read “Romance Sonám­bu­lo” in the orig­i­nal Span­ish here

Read an inter­view with ani­ma­tor Ushev here.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Pat­ti Smith Reads Fed­eri­co Gar­cia Lorca’s “Lit­tle Vien­nese Waltz” in New York City

Hear Jorge Luis Borges Read 30 of His Poems (in the Orig­i­nal Span­ish)

Watch Ani­ma­tions of Two Ita­lo Calvi­no Sto­ries: “The False Grand­moth­er” and “The Dis­tance from the Moon”

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine.  Her play Zam­boni Godot is open­ing in New York City in March 2017. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

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