Lesson Learned

         After reflecting back on this my last semester in college, I cannot help but think of one class in particular. It was my original intent to take the class as an easy elective, not expecting to get much out of it. I suppose the title of the class originally got my attention, film and literature. I had hopped; all we would do during the semester is watch movies; however, I was completely mistaken. It was our job as students to read the original works then, be prepared to discuss and help interpret the authors’ intent. Then we would watch the adaptations of the original works and analyze those. Throughout this process something happened that I did not anticipate. I began to develop an appreciation for some of the classical films, both black and white and color. Throughout this paper I will be discussing some of the reasons this came to be so.

         For starters, one reason I have come to develop this appreciation is the way some of the directors chose to push the boundaries. What I mean is, at any given point in history there are a set of standards and norms that a culture gets used to. As a result, when someone steps out of his or her norms often times, he or she is ridiculed. However, as time passes, it is these free-spirited thinkers that help set the new trends and norms of society. If you want an example, just look at some of the drastic changes in our perceptions of the world. Once upon a time it was believed the earth was square and even the center of the universe. Due to some folks challenging the norm, however, we now know this not to be true. Likewise, the amazing films we see today in the theaters might not exist had directors like William Wyler and Elia Kazan not challenged the norm with such films as Wyler’s 1939 film Wuthering Heights, based on Emily Brontë's 1847 book, the 1949 film The Heiress, based on Henry James’s 1880 Washington Square, and Kazan’s 1947 film A Streetcar Named Desire, based on Tennessee Williams’ 1947 play.

         Another reason I have gained my appreciation is because of the talent of the actors and actresses of old. Namely among these are Marlon Brando and Audrey Hepburn, Brando for his role as Stanley Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire and Hepburn for her role as Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady, directed by George Cukor in 1964 and based on George Bernard Shaw’s 1913 Pygmalion. Watching these two perform their different roles just made me feel hypnotized. I could not tear my eyes away from them, and maybe it is because they are both very attractive people, but I think it also has a lot to do with their talent.

         The final reason for my feelings towards this class has to do with the education I gained. What I mean is I not only got to read and watch different works; but I also learned through this process a little bit about different cultures. For example, I learned a little about Louisiana from A Streetcar Named Desire and a little about the Latin culture from Luis Buńuel’s 1954 Los Abismos de Pasion. I have come to believe that some of the most important things a person can learn is that of things outside of his or her own culture.

         In summation, maybe the final lesson I should mention that I learned is to not underestimate the potential of an experience to teach me something. I suppose I am thankful that I have been able to keep an open mind. Otherwise I might have missed some really important lessons this semester. In the end, as a word to future generations, I give English 213 film and literature two thumbs up and highly recommend you take the course.

John Luttrell

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