☞ Cinematic narrative can be used for education. As this article illustrates, some film narratives, such as Oliver! and Edward Scissorhands could be used to enhance students’ narrative writing.
Films, such as Oliver!, could be applied to improving students’ narrative writing
“So we all know how it goes in the secondary English teaching world; read the book and then watch the film adaptation. This tried and tested method has been used by teachers since time in memoriam (or at least since the birth of the VHS tape).
After spending a particularly frustrating evening reading a set of narratives written by my year 8 class of which the majority ended with the immortal words: “And then I woke up,” I realised two things. Firstly, my comprehensive lesson on creating an interesting and cohesive narrative had been unsuccessful and secondly, something else had to be done. During the same academic year I was also teaching AS and A2 film studies and realised that the storytelling element of films could be applied to improving my students’ narrative writing.
The following week each English lesson was spent analysing the opening 20 minutes of Edward Scissorhands with pauses to write dialogue between the characters, create vivid descriptions of Edward’s garden and discuss the impact of the film’s non-chronological structure. At the end of the week, I gave my class a timed assessment and I was pleased to see that their narratives had improved greatly with non-linear structures, improved character descriptions and settings; although some students still stuck to their favoured “and then I woke up” ending.”
☞ Again, adaptation becomes an issue… How close is the film to the original? When should this become an issue? Or, to put it in the terms of this review, when does a film begin to “vandalise” the original?
“What began as a necessary fleshing out of narrative allusions and foreshadowing to effectively translate literature into a movie ended up as Jackson’s sheer invention and gratuitous abuse of the characters, all of whom sword fight more often than Conan the Barbarian and more bloodily than Leonidas. If Thorin had shouted in the midst of battle with the Goblins, “Dwarves! Tonight we dine in Mordor!” no one in the audience would have been the least bit surprised. Zorro and the Three Musketeers had less skill with a blade in hand-to-hand combat than do these Dwarves, Gandalf or at times, Bilbo Baggins.
The only scenes where Jackson manages genuine fidelity to the story are the ones with Gollum, Bilbo and their Riddle-Game – perhaps out of fear of trivializing his previous movies, Tolkien’s actual dialogue and plot enters the script before vanishing again into a Jacksonian cinematic homage to every American action movie ever made. No wonder Christopher Tolkien looks on with weary despair.”