Reflecting the Students' Views Through Writing

         If I were teaching a film and literature class based on the combinations we used in this class, I would use A Doll's House, A Streetcar Named Desire, My Fair Lady/Pygmalion, and a Shakespeare play.

         In studying Henrik Ibsen's 1879 play, A Doll's House, and Patrick Garland's 1973 film adaptation, I would want the class to give me their opinion on how Torvald treats Nora in the play. After that, I would have them watch the movie and actually see the way Torvald (Anthony Hopkins) treats Nora (Claire Bloom). Then I would have the class write an essay about what they felt while reading the play and what they felt while watching the film and if their reactions changed, stayed the same, or intensified. I believe this play/movie is very emotionally draining because I really got into at and became angry at both Torvald and Nora. I would hope that doing this exercise would allow the class to express their emotions, provided they have some, whether they might be good or bad.

         I would follow with Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire, a 1947 play adapted to film in 1951 by Eliza Kazan, because male chauvinist, abusive themes are prevalent in this book and movie. I would let the students read the play and watch the movie, then let them choose to write a paper either about Blanche's character traits and how Vivien Leigh portrays her, Marlon Brando's character traits as Stanley, and compare/contrast them to Torvald, or I would let them compare the character traits of Stella (Kim Hunter) to Nora.

         Next, I would have the class read George Bernard Shaw's 1913 play, Pygmalion, and watch the film adaptation, George Cukor's 1964 My Fair Lady, and Alan J. Lerner and Frederick Loewe's 1956 musical version. I would ask the students to look at the character of Professor Higgins (Leslie Howard/Rex Harrison) and compare/contrast him to Torvald and Stanley. Also, I would want them to analyze the character of Eliza (Wendy Hiller/Audrey Hepburn) and how she compares/contrasts to Stella and Nora. I would then want the class to think about whether or not they liked the movie or musical versions better. At the end of this unit, I would ask the class to write an essay about the three combinations. They would need to look at each work and find similarities and differences between these works and examine how these themes carry over between such different works. I would also have them write another essay about which movie version does the best job of depicting the written work.

         Next, I would do a Shakepearean unit. We did not do this in this class, but I think it would be great to have. I would have the class read Romeo and Juliet, then we would discuss it in class. Next, we would watch the original Romeo and Juliet film, followed by Baz Luhrmann's 1996 version starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes. I would then have the class write an essay about which movie version they enjoyed most and why, as well as which version does the most justice to the play. Then they would read Macbeth. We would discuss this in class and then watch Roman Polanski's 1971 film version followed by Billy Morrissette's 1991 Scotland, Pa. Again I would have the class write about which film they like the best and which one does the most justice to the play and why.

         I would study these five combinations for a film and literature class because I think that A Doll's House, A Streetcar Named Desire, and My Fair Lady/Pygmalion all have some of the same themes, and they somehow go together as a unit. I would do a Shakespeare unit because everyone needs to read Shakespeare in his or her life, and also it would be fun to let the students watch an old by-the-book version and then a more modern, slightly altered version of each play.

Allison Light

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