Lesson ideas

14th January 2005 at 00:00
* Students are often asked to write about the opening to Luhrmann's Romeo and Juliet. Why not extend this, suggests Jill Poppy, to examine the narrative clues used in other screen versions of the plays? The dream (nightmare) beginnings to Adrian Noble's RSC A Midsummer Night's Dream or Julie Tamor's Titus would prove powerful stimuli.

* Get students to anticipate what key characters will look like or how dramatic crux scenes will be handled. When lengthy description precedes a character's first appearance (eg in Macbeth), use this for close textual work before showing a variety of screen representations of the character - including the cartoon version in The Animated Tales.

* Give students a crash course in film grammar (see resources box) and invite them to suggest moments that warrant use of long shots, close-ups or point-of-view shots. Then get them to create a shooting script from a short sequence. Compare their choices with a variety of screen versions.

* Use non-English or silent productions. These often convey great insights - eg the end of The Throne of Blood in which the terrifying presence of Kurosawa's Macbeth-equivalent is conveyed more powerfully, in my view, than in any other film version.

* Study the treatment of soliloquies and songs in films. In Polanski's Macbeth, the use of voice-over as the tyrant sidles through crowded rooms proves a great way of suggesting his isolation at times of conspiracy and disillusionment.

* Get pupils to create storyboards or videos of key sequences. A good inspiration might be Pacino's Looking for Richard, exploring the journey needed to understand and produce Richard III.

* Only 25-30 per cent of a text survives into a Shakespeare screenplay, so take a scene and invite students to reduce it, then examine what was lost in the process. For Tony Howard of Warwick University, the final part of Hamlet is ripe for this exercise.

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