Topic 11: Ben Okri – transcript

I’ve had an ambivalent feeling about the filming of my books,and my works. For two reasons. The first is that I write for the imagination, I really do. And by that I mean…

There are two ways in which the imagination works and in the way I choose to write. One is when you’re reading it. What you imagine, and what you see. What you have to make out with your mind.

The second is what happens to you after the reading. I’ve taken great pain over the years in concentrating my art in the “afterwards.” It’s a different orientation in your writing. When you’re writing for someone to read it, and for the effect to be felt when you’re reading it, and for the effect to be felt afterwards. That’s why you’ll find that..there’s two reactions to my books. There’s a reaction immediately, (when) they finish reading it. And there’s a reaction two or three years afterwards.And I’m now learning the art of writing for the longer and longer period AFTER the reading. Now, the effect of that, is that I’m talking about a very implicated kind of writing. A writing that affects your imagination in stages. A bit like those prolongued vitamin C release tablets, right?

How do you translate this into film?
The very nature of film is that it presents the image immediately.Of course, there are many subtle filmmakers that can be very indirect and very suggestive. But I really like the theater of the mind. I like writing for the inside of the mind of my readers, and their hearts.

Words are vey misterious that way. They’re abstract. You make up what you read. I can’t say that strongly enough. You INVENT the book that you’re reading, with the little help from the writer. The right kind of help.

So, I don’t want to lose that intimate highly creative relationship with the reader’s mind. And heart. And memory. And desires.

On the other hand…
I love the medium of film. I’m a great fan of cinema. And some of my greatest experiences have been with films. So, what I’m saying, I guess, is… I’m hoping for a filmmaker who has that same layered creative relationship with the creativity of the viewer’s mind to come along, and film one of my works. Someone who’s as indirect and suggestive as I’d like to be. A filmmaker who has a great sense that what you see is not necessarily what there is. Because that is the basis of my writing. That there is more to life, more to reality than what we see, feel, hear and think. And that there are more dimensions in the universe. A filmmaker that has that sense, and yet has a great sense of storytelling – combined, would be for me an ideal. I don’t think the eyes are enough. I think the eyes reduce reality. There is an intuitive an instinctive and a dream quality that is always a part of the world that we live.

Finally, I think…I would love a filmmaker to be as challenging about the nature of reality as I always want to be. So, in a sense, I’m offering a challenge to filmmakers out there.

Link and transcript courtesy of Verica Kordic.


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