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Film and Nostalgia: Representations of History Course Review

Guest Post by Sandra Martin

WEA Billericay Branch – Spring Course

Film and Nostalgia: Representations of History

Tutor – Dr Bex Harper
Scene:

A cast of around 30 men and women from their mid to late twenties and ……!
Seated, facing a screen, wide-eyed in anticipation. Unsure what the next 8
weeks will involve. A plethora of bodice-ripping tear- jerkers? A potted history
of the world courtesy of the film industry? Think what the film ‘Troy’ did for
our knowledge of the magnificent Greek civilisation hmm?!

Enter stage left:

Our Director/Producer Bex whose in-depth enlightenment of how film
techniques are used to portray events, emotions, relationships and
environments ensured that we will probably never view a film in quite the
same way.

Bex helped us to really see the importance of things that we may not have
noticed in our viewing. For example, so many different camera angles used as
devices to show so much more than the things in shot, such as the
power/vulnerability of characters, historical setting, and of course emotions.
She chose 4 films for scrutiny. The first being Howard’s End, which we soon
realised was so much more that a beautifully filmed rural idyll and which some
might call a stereotypical nostalgic film?

Secondly, and about as different from Howard’s End as you could choose, was
the brilliant Good Bye Lenin!, a film set in the last years of the GDR ,when
history was being made, but focussing on the life of one family. Bex’s guidance
through this film showed us how a film can show nostalgia and heritage in such
a very powerful way that the viewer can identify with even though the events
were far removed from their own lives. It was a film that was a great discovery
for most of us and during the 4 weeks we studied it, I for one couldn’t wait for
the next session.

After a session viewing clips from, and discussing The Help – a film set in the
south of the US around the time of the Civil Rights movement, we moved on to
our final film The King’s Speech, set in the years leading up to WW2 and
centred on the future King’s struggles to master a speech impediment which
could hinder his role as sovereign.

Method:

Our sessions were so much more than us, as the audience, viewing while the
Director Bex led – we broke off into small groups for discussion and then
regrouped to share our views after each clip. This technique enabled us to
pursue in depth what nostalgia and heritage in film meant, not only to us, but
in the portrayal of life events in film.

A thoroughly enjoyable and enlightening course.

– Sandra Martin, Student