Thursday, January 08, 2009

Movies and text

Movies seem to be de rigueur in the Humanities classes of Ateneo de Davao. Last year, I watched "Angels in America", "Shakespeare in Love", "Les Miserable", and portions of "Beowulf" (not the Neil Gaiman cartoon, thankfully) -- and these were only for English and American Literature and Literary Theory. Film Appreciation was a whole other subject. (Yes, I watched a whole scad of films last year.)

That said, I never thought I'd actually screen a movie in class, but I did. The movie in question was "Capote", and this was for my Feature Stories class.

I gave in to the temptation because I decided to tackle Capote's "In Cold Blood." "In Cold Blood" is a landmark work because it's generally acknowledged to be the first non-fiction novel; it always garners a mention whenever the Creative Nonfiction is bandied about.

"In Cold Blood" the novel sells for about P500 at the local National Bookstore. Luckily for me and my students, the first part is available from the New Yorker (and the full novel from, er, more dubious sources).

But that still left the question of how to get my students -- whose current reading fare is "Twilight" -- enthused about a true crime account. Capote takes his sweet time describing the victims and their murderers, all the better to heighten the tension: I wasn't sure my students would take to it.

Enter the movie. The VCD copy had been sitting on my shelf for quite some time. And I thought: "Why not?"

In the end, it worked out quite well. The movie provided the context with which to frame the novel -- about the period, about the crime, about the characters, about Capote, about his motivations. We didn't finish the movie, but the little that we did see got enough questions to simmer and boil.

The session after that, the students had read through enough of the first part (not completely, though) for us to be able to have a discussion of its style, of its content, and of Capote's ethics.

So there you go: the merits of supplementing lessons with audio-visuals.

And over in the next room, they were screening Baz Luhrmann's "Romeo + Juliet", with the students flipping through their copies of the Bard's play. Heh.


  1. Back in the day - when I was a teenager - Capote was a popular guest on the television talk show circuit. I was familiar with his on-air persona long before I ever got around to reading "In Cold Blood".
    One of the great disconnects was trying to imagine the TV Capote writing something like that.
    Great book.
    Not sure of the current price here......when I read it years ago, I borrowed it from the public library.( no writer can ever expect to make his fortune off me ).

  2. Check out the Wikipedia entry for the link to the full text.

    Yeah, libraries here are crappy.