Film and Literature


***Yeah, it’s been a long time (a really, really long time – I know…). Kizz got the proverbial ball rolling again (thanks, Kizz!), though, so I’m jumping back in!***

I am teaching my dream course, you guys!

I’m running an elective course at my high school called Film and Literature. The intention for the class is that we’ll read some books, then watch some movies based on those books. We’ll also look at some movies that don’t have books associated with them, and my hope (although I don’t think we’ll have the time) is that we’ll read a book that doesn’t have a movie (yet) and talk about how we might put a film version together.

So far, we’ve watched Willow, read then watched The Secret Life of Bees, and watched The Karate Kid (shut it; it was new to them!).  Last week, we saw The Client and are now in the process of reading the novel, though that’s not going as well as I had hoped.  I think it was a mistake to see the film first; holding the film as a reward for reading the novel may be my best strategy.

Something that I long suspected, but that I’m having confirmed for me as I teach this class, is that one really needs to see a movie more than once to really get a feel for all that it has to offer.  I know that this is true for me; even with my skills in critical analysis (and I’m not bragging when I tell you that I really am good at it), I find that I always understand more about a film when I see it a second (or even third or fourth) time.  My suspicion that I’m not the only person for whom this is true is being reinforced by Bartholomew.  Bart is a student in my class (one of my favorites, to boot) who is an avid movie-goer.  His dad is a film critic and, as a consequence, the boy gets to see a lot of films.  So far, he’s seen two of the four films we’ve watched (Willow and The Karate Kid), and I’ve noticed that the quality of his responses to my critical thinking questions has been drastically better when he’s discussing films that he’s seen before.  This kid, who is pretty familiar with the ways in which films tell their stories and is a remarkably agile thinker, has quite a bit of trouble coming up with nuanced answers to questions about films he’s only just been exposed to.

That’s leading me to question whether or not it would be fruitful to show films more than once in the course.  Would it be worth the time to let the kids see the film the first time and just let them take it in, then show it again so that they can pay closer attention?  The thought has also occurred to me to ask them to watch the film for homework the first time – at home on their couches with popcorn – and then show the film in class with an eye toward a more critical approach, but the question of availability becomes a problem.

I don’t really have the time to make any significant changes to this year’s curriculum, though – I’m not sure I’ll have enough time to get through the pieces I’ve chosen for the class as it is, and I’d be loath to drop anything off the roster at this point.  Really; I’ve got a great line up.  I’m thinking of looking at The Sixth Sense next (we are coming up on Hallowe’en, after all), and I can’t WAIT to get to Empire of the Sun.

Watch this space; more movie musing is on the way!


2 Responses to “Film and Literature”

  1. Directing Traffic « The Blue Door Says:

    […] three consecutive Helen Keller moments at A Teacher’s Education and I’ve written about critical thinking in my Film and Literature class over at Please Pass the Popcorn (remember that site?!  Kizz performed some emergency CPR and […]

  2. Seth Joseph Says:

    My first semester at college I took Film Narrative (with the GREAT Joanna Rapf), and her recommendation was always to watch the film twice. To that end, each week the university would screen her chosen film on Tuesday and Wednesday night. I noticed that my writing about the films improved when I had the chance to re-watch.

    I think assigning the films as homework might get expensive and/or difficult, though. Maybe as a median between rescreening, though, you and the class could watch the film and then subsequently review any scenes or sequences that people wanted to see again. Just a thought.

    Sounds like a great class, hope it goes well!

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