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Film and English

Reading moving image

Film adaptations of literary works can be explored in the classroom as interpretations, with the idea that investigation of both the visual and written text will enhance students' understanding of both. This can be a highly fruitful and productive, not to mention engaging, way of approaching questions of interpretation: however, it is equally valid to use film in English as a medium in its own right. Students of English language and literature learn how to read texts actively, how to interpret and respond at the level of whole text, grammatical unit and individual word. In the same way, in order to more fully appreciate, analyse and indeed criticise film, it is necessary to have an understanding of the units it is constructed from. An understanding of film on the level of sequence, scene and whole text, and a grasp of the grammar of the moving image as well as an appropriate critical vocabulary, is now recognised as an important part of literacy in its broader sense.

In order for students to arrive at a fuller understanding of what they see on screen, it’s important for the teacher to defamiliarise film for them: students will need to learn how to actively ‘read’ a moving image text. They will also need to learn a new vocabulary in order to clearly express their views. With this understanding in place, the possibilities for creative response and critical interpretation are thrown wide open.