If you’re looking for a good related text for HSC Advanced English Discovery, the three films below are worth checking out. As you’ve been asked to choose related material of a different medium so that you can compare and contrast techniques, these films would work particularly well if you are doing The Tempest, Away, Wrack, or The Awakening, as your prescribed text.
(Director: Richard Ayoade)
A synopsis probably won’t do the film justice – it really is a uniquely quirky thing and I would highly recommend that you see it. Or at least watch the trailer after the synopsis.
Submarine is set in Swansea, Wales. Its 15-year-old protagonist Oliver Tate is an isolated, self-proclaimed genius. The main female character, an enigmatic girl named Jordana, comes into his life and Oliver is enamoured with her. They start dating, but soon Oliver’s social awkwardness gets in the way. An example of the bizarre way with which he deals with others’ emotions is the idea he comes up with to lessen the impact of Jordana’s mother’s terminal cancer diagnosis- he considers poisoning Jordana’s dog so that she would feel less bad about her mother’s illness by comparison. Eventually he breaks up with Jordana so as to make her emotional life simpler in this chaotic time. Concurrently, he suspects that his own mother might be having an affair with a neighbour, and goes to great lengths to stop the affair. He subsequently breaks into the neighbour’s house and vandalises it. Expecting to be in deep strife, his parents are unexpectedly understanding and forgive him. In the meantime, Jordana has started dating someone new and Oliver is devastated when he sees them together at the beach. By the end of the film, he is still hung up on her, but is unable to explain why he cut himself off. Weeks later, at his most despondent point, Oliver sees Jordana again at the beach but this time she is alone. She has broken up with her new boyfriend and the film ends with the possibility of her and Oliver getting back together.
Key Discovery Idea: Self-discovery inevitably involves confrontation with one’s own emotional fragility and that of others. Equally important is the recognition and respect of the fact that others’ emotional reactions will differ to our own.
Key Technique(s): Jordana’s red coat symbolises her role as the source of emotional vitality in Oliver’s life. Her costume stands in contrast with the dull hues of his parents’ outfits, the décor of their home, and his own black duffel coat.
Deadpan performances by the actors reinforce the theme of emotional repression throughout the film. The two lead actors rarely express their feelings even when they understand what these feelings are.
Something for you to think about: what does the metafictional remark “I wish there was a film crew following my every move” made by Oliver add to the themes of authenticity, and emotional repression?
Apocalypse Now (1979)
(Director: Francis Ford Coppola)
Francis Ford Coppola’s take on Conrad’s Heart of Darkness is set in 1969, the apex of America’s involvement in the Vietnam War. Captain Willard is sent by the military on a mission into the jungle to locate and kill one Colonel Kurtz. Kurtz has stopped following the army’s orders and has in fact set up his own army – as a well as a cult of locals who worship him as a God. As Willard travels through the jungle, he is faced with the brutality men are capable of when they live beyond society and its laws. By the time he finds Kurtz at the end of the film, Willard is a different man, and understands Kurtz’ actions on a new level. He realises that he would have done the same things as Kurtz if given the power to do so.
Key Discovery Idea: Discovering one’s innate desires after seeing them desires mirrored in the actions of others.
Key Technique(s): The jungle is a metaphor for Willard’s nature, and as he travels deeper into the jungle he discovers more of his own repressed desires and tendencies. Willard is portrayed as an ordinary man with none of Kurtz’ brilliance. Through Willard the director shows that his penchant for violence is present in the heart of every man.
Something for you to think about: what is the significance of the surfing scene in the film? What does it symbolise?
Freedom Writers (2007)
(Director: Richard LaGravenese)
Based on a true story based in Longbeach California, this film is about a young teacher, Erin Gruwell, who arrives at a school full of students from violent and poverty-stricken families. The new ‘racial integration’ policy at the school has led to self-segregation amongst the students, who form divisions along racial lines. In her privileged position as an outsider to the cultural dynamic of the school, Gruwell is able to compel the students to see a world beyond the narrow prism of prejudice and hatred they have grown up in. Gruwell herself is changed as the experience challenges her assumption that every student aspires towards college as she did. Throughout the film she realises that the impact she can make from her position of socio-economic privilege extends beyond merely helping her students get better grades, to helping them heal deep personal wounds.
Key Discovery Idea: Discoveries through interpersonal relationships can force us to see the familiar in a new light.
Key Technique: the diary functions as an extended metaphor for self-recognition. By writing a narrative of their experiences, the students are forced to unearth painful memories and confront them as essential elements of their own history, rather than repressing them, then finding violent outlets for them.
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