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Year 12 Film Studies

Section C: U.S Film Comparison

Overview
The final unit of work in preparation for the exam. It is based on a comparison between two American films. You will be studying specific ways in which the films are similar and how they are different. There is very little time left on this unit so it is crucial that you engage with the work to the fullest of your ability.

Exam Questions
How do key sequences from your chosen American films reinforce their messages and values?
Films always reflect the times and places in which they are made. How far is this true of the American films you have studied for this topic? What is significant about setting and/or place in your chosen American films? In the American films you have studied for this topic, how far do the representations of either women or men reflect the time when they were made? With particular reference to the endings of your chosen American films, compare their messages and values.

Exam Questions
How useful have your wider contextual studies been in understanding similarities and differences in the American films you have studied for this topic?

Compare the ways in which narrative is used to create dramatic conflict in the American films you have studied for this topic.
How far do your chosen American films portray themes and ideas in similar ways? How far do the American films you have studied for this topic depend on well established narrative and/or genre conventions?

How far do the American films you have studied for this topic express similar messages and values to one another?

Focus Areas
Messages and Values Themes and Ideas Significance of Time and Place Representation of Gender Wider Context Narrative/Genre
You will need to have a thorough knowledge of each of these areas in regard to both of your focus films.

You will have a detailed knowledge of key scenes from both of the films. You will draw your detailed textual examples from these key scenes.

Key Texts
The War of the Worlds (Byron Haskin 1953) The War of the Worlds (Steven Spielberg 2005)

War of the Worlds


(Byron Haskin 1953)
Directed by Byron Haskin. Based on the novel by HG Welles Screenplay by Barre Lyndon Starring: Gene Barry Ann Robinson Les Tremayne

Social/Wider Context
The Cold War
The Cold War was the name given to the passive conflict between Russia and America between 1947 and 1991. It was so named because the two major powers never met in direct military combat. Each side possessed nuclear weapons and therefore threatened Mutual Assured Destruction. This was at its height in the 50s and the threat of communism was a major influence on American society particularly in the film industry. During the 1950s women were very much seen as domestic figures. Men were generally seen as the breadwinners and traditional gender roles were very much in evidence.

Gender Equality

War of the Worlds


(Steven Spielberg 2005)
Directed by Steven Spielberg Screenplay by Josh Friedman, David Koepp Starring: Tom Cruise Dakota Fanning Justin Chatwin Tim Robbins

Social/Wider Context
9/11
On September 11 2001, extremist Islamic terrorists hijacked several planes and flew two of them into the twin towers of the World Trade Centre.

Gender Equality
Women have a great deal more equality and are often just as if not more successful than men. There are many more instances of broken homes and failed marriages than in the 1950s.

Homework
Fill out the worksheet on gender representation in War of the Worlds. Fill out one of these for both versions of the film.

Lesson 3: Comparing the Texts


Messages and Values Themes and Ideas Significance of Time and Place Representation of Gender Wider Context Narrative/Genre
You will need to have a thorough understanding of how each of these areas relate to the focus films. You must have strong, detailed, specific examples from the texts which relate to the micro and macro elements. These must be committed to memory.

Specific Examples
What is meant by strong detailed examples? Examples from the text which illustrate the point you are making in detail. For example if you are talking about the way characters are represented in your key film you will achieve the highest marks by citing examples from specific scenes from the film and discussing relevant micro-elements using appropriate terminology.

Characters
The first step to comparing the two key texts is to look at the characters in them. Write down a list of main characters for each of the films with a short description of each of them.
War of the Worlds (1953) Sylvia Van Buren Dr. Clayton Forrester The Pastor Major General Mann Scientists

War of the Worlds (2005) Ray Robbie Rachel Mary Ann Harlan

Gender Representation
Always begin an essay on representation by defining what representation is. Write this down now. Also, consider how we analyse a representation. What areas specifically do we need to look at? Write this down too.

Gender Representation in WOTW 1953


Firstly, consider the way men and women are represented in the film as a whole. What words would you use to describe the men in the film? How about the women? Why? As you watch the following scene note down specific ways this representations is constructed. Key Scene: The farmhouse. How does this representation reflect the time the film was made in? Does it conform to it or challenge it?

Gender Representation in WOTW 2005


Firstly, consider the way men and women are represented in the film as a whole. What words would you use to describe the men in the film? How about the women? Why? As you watch the following scene note down specific ways this representations is constructed. Key scene: Ray takes the kids. How does this representation reflect the time the film was made in? Does it conform to it or challenge it?

Essay Structure
The only way to achieve a high grade on either an exam response or a homework essay is to carefully plan it first. How would you plan the following essay? In the American films you have studied for this topic, how far do the representations of either women or men reflect the time when they were made?

Messages and Values


What is meant by the term messages and values? Now see if you agree or disagree with these comments on War of the Worlds. 1. Working life in the dockyards is only the background to the story and so it does not matter how it is represented. 2. It is important that one of the central characters is a child. 3. Human beings are complacent about their superiority. 4. Human beings should prepare themselves in case they are invaded by aliens. 5. If people stay true to themselves and their family, they will be rewarded. 6. When it comes to it, humans will do anything to save themselves. 7. We rely too much on technology. 8. The film is more about human values than about alien invasions. 9. There is more to being a hero in a film than being heroic. When you have done this, compare your answers with a partner and see if you agree. Discuss any disagreements that might be found in your answers.

Homework
In the American films you have studied for this topic, how far do the representations of either women or men reflect the time when they were made? 1500 words. Typed. Use the homework cover sheet.

Lesson 4: Further Comparison


Recap: You should now have a thorough understanding of the way gender is represented in your two focus films. Make sure that you have strong detailed examples to refer to in the exam. Today, you will be looking in closer detail at what messages and values are conveyed by the films and how this is apparent in the endings of the films. What are the messages and values of each film? What does the film say are virtues or good things in society and life in general? What does the film say is important?

Messages and Values


WOTW (Haskin 1953) The power of faith (Religion/God). Love is important. Community and family values. When community is broken the mob rules. It is better to accept your fate with dignity. Insignificance of the individual.
WOTW (Spielberg 2005) Family is important maybe the most important thing of all. Responsibility being an adult. It is important to fight back against evil even when the situation looks hopeless. There are powerful, hostile enemies who want to destroy us and everything we stand for but they can be defeated by even the smallest of enemies.

Endings
Watch the endings to each of the films and take notes on specific ways the messages and values are communicated. Remember, you need to be able to discuss specific detailed examples in any exam response. Make sure you have these prepared.

Lesson 5: Messages and Values


Recap the messages and values conveyed in each of your focus films. What are they? How are they seen? Watch the ending of WOTW (2005) and pick out specific ways these messages are communicated.

Messages and Values


WOTW (Haskin 1953) The power of faith (Religion/God). Love is important. Community and family values. When community is broken the mob rules. It is better to accept your fate with dignity. Insignificance of the individual.
WOTW (Spielberg 2005) Family is important maybe the most important thing of all. Responsibility being an adult. It is important to fight back against evil even when the situation looks hopeless. There are powerful, hostile enemies who want to destroy us and everything we stand for but they can be defeated by even the smallest of enemies.

Messages and Values Questions


How do key sequences from your chosen American films reinforce their messages and values? With particular reference to the endings of your chosen American films, compare their messages and values. How far do your chosen American films portray themes and ideas in similar ways?

How far do the American films you have studied for this topic express similar messages and values to one another?

Task
Pick one of the exam questions. Write out a detailed essay plan explaining exactly which points you will use in each section. Work quickly and productively. 10 minutes.

Narrative and Genre


You may be given a question which relates to narrative and genre in your focus films. Examples of these are: Compare the ways in which narrative is used to create dramatic conflict in the American films you have studied for this topic.

How far do the American films you have studied for this topic depend on well established narrative and/or genre conventions?

WOTW (2005) Narrative and Genre


What aspects of narrative and genre do you think are interesting/noteworthy? Think about: How the narrative is constructed. Different parts of the narrative and how they work. What the main drive of the narrative is. How the films genre is evident. How typical the film is of its genre.

WOTW (1953) Narrative and Genre


The narrative conforms to the traditional 3 act structure (Syd Fields Paradigm). The first act introduces us to the characters and the situation. Mystery and intrigue are focused on. The second act shows us the aliens invading and humanitys attempts to learn more about them and fight them off. The third act shows the aliens winning and Clayton merely trying to find Sylvia before they all die. Dramatic conflict is created through the steadily increasing sense of hopelessness. The ending is fairly unusual as it is a Deus Ex Machina which means that the hero does not actually have any effect on the storys resolution. The main drive of the narrative is made up of Clayton and Sylvia trying to find a way to beat the invaders as well as their building romance. Genre is evident through the subject matter, iconography and language. The genre is a mix of sci-fi and war/action film. It is typical of these genres in various obvious

WOTW (2005) Narrative and Genre


What aspects of narrative and genre do you think are interesting/noteworthy? Think about: How the narrative is constructed. Different parts of the narrative and how they work. What the main drive of the narrative is. How the films genre is evident. How typical the film is of its genre.

WOTW (2005) Narrative and Genre

The narrative conforms to the traditional 3 act structure (Syd Fields Paradigm). The first act introduces us to the characters and their situation. Rays character and family situation is the focus. The second act shows us the aliens invading and Rays attempts to get away and keep his family safe. The third act shows humans fighting back with only minimal success Rays character is still the focus. Dramatic conflict is created through the increasingly grim situation as well as family issues. The ending again is a Deus Ex Machina though Rays journey is the real focus. The main drive of the narrative is made up of Ray trying to stay alive. Genre is evident through the subject matter, iconography and language. The genre is a mix of sci-fi and action film. It is typical of these genres in various obvious ways.

Key Scenes
WOTW (1953) The farmhouse scene. The A-Bomb. The final scene.

WOTW (2005) Rays children arrive. The first attack. The final scene.

Themes and Ideas


What is theme? A unifying subject or idea in a story. To put it another way the story beneath the story. What themes and ideas are there in our focus films? This is very close to the messages and values and there will certainly be some overlap but try to think of any more themes and ideas for each of the films.

Homework
Write the essay on Messages and Values that you planned in class. 1500 Words. Typed. Use the cover sheet.