If I were to teach a film and literature course, it would have more than just one agenda. For example, I would try to incorporate family relationships, women's issues, and abusive relationships all into one course. I believe all of these issues to be important in today's society. I would also find that many film-literature combinations address more than just one of these issues.
In my film and literature course, I would probably begin with discussing family relationships. To help me with this topic, I would ask that my students read A Doll's House, written by Henrik Ibsen in 1879. In this play, Nora, the wife of Torvald, is subjected to her husband's controlling habits that seem to be the result of a patriarchal society. Nonetheless, Nora, in the end, finds the courage to leave her husband and three children to embark on her own journey through life. She hopes not only to become educated but also to form her own opinions on society, politics, religion, and other issues.
Another book that emphasizes family relationships is Washington Square, written by Henry James in 1880. This novel not only explores abuses in romantic relationships, but also the abuses in parent-child relationships. In the novel, we meet a young, naïve, and plain (especially in the eyes of her father) woman who is abused by the two men who are supposed to love her the most. Morris, her so-called boyfriend, uses her as though she were not a human with real feelings. However, it is the actions and cold-heartedness of her father that truly break her heart in the end.
I would, of course, watch the two film adaptations of these movies in my class. The 1973 film version of A Doll's House, directed by Patrick Garland, does a fantastic job of depicting the emotion that Nora (Claire Bloom) feels toward Torvald (Anthony Hopkins) as she is leaving him. The film version of Washington Square, titled The Heiress and directed by William Wyler in 1949, also does an excellent job of depicting the emotions felt by the characters. In fact, I believe that The Heiress does a better job than the novel by showing the regret, whether it be superficial or real, of Morris (Montgomery Clift) and Dr. Sloper (Ralph Richardson).
The next topic in my film and literature class would be abusive relationships. This topic could be summed up in one novel/film adaptation: Wuthering Heights! The 1847 Emily Brontë novel and 1939 movie, directed by William Wyler, are full of relatives, friends, and lovers mistreating each other. Heathcliff (Laurence Olivier), the main character, is intent upon having revenge on those who mistreated him. Even his great love for Catherine (Merle Oberon) cannot seem to remove the hatred that has consumed his soul.
Finally, I would tackle the issue of women's rights in my class. I would again use examples from the three previous novels/film adaptations, but I would focus primarily on the greatest movie of all time: Harold Ross's Steel Magnolias! The movie is about six friends who, because of circumstances in life, are as hard as steel and as soft and beautiful as magnolias. They are strong and independent women who also find time for marriage and motherhood--not to mention that through it all they always remember to laugh. It is the ultimate movie that every woman should see.
Overall, I would try to include as much variety in my film and literature class as possible. I would also try to include more contemporary movies that deal with contemporary issues. In the end, I would hope that my students would leave my class feeling more well-rounded and open-minded.