My Favourite Film of 1981.



Film With the school exam results released in the past few weeks, I thought again, somewhat wistfully, of those days, though cautiously given that I was bullied mercilessly most of the time and didn't come away with anything like what might be described as decent exam results. But it's still possible for me to think of the good times, the aforementioned art classes (see the Adventures in Babysitting entry) and pre-GSCE English classes when a teacher took it upon himself to show feature films during English lessons for a year or two. One of those films was Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Perhaps it's important to contextualise this.  Some of the films were Shakespeare adaptations.  It's here I first saw - and giggled through it has to be admitted - the Polanski Macbeth and the Zeffirelli Romeo and Juliet, my only recollection of that viewing being his boasting that part it had been filmed at his house (something which to this day I've not been able to verify).  But some of his choices were rather more eclectic.  Even the afterlife of the Pythons made an appearance in the form of The Jabberwocky and Time Bandits.

The television room at school was a tiny space which would otherwise have been used as an office for a head of department.  I can still smell the dust of the wooden varnished floors and the chair were those fairly standard 70s stacking examples with the tubular metal frames as featured in this eBay entry;   The screen was a 26 inch DER colour CRT locked in a large television cupboard with a top-loading VHS player underneath.  All of the films we watched were off-air recordings with the adverts edited out via the pause button during broadcast were necessary.

Much of the time this English teacher would simply show the films.  But every now and then he'd throw in some rudimentary film studies, perhaps as a way of introducing us to how narratives work in preparation for future exam courses.  In Raiders of the Lost Ark, this meant the mechanics of the action sequences and character foreshadowing.  He'd pause the film now and then to highlight signposts.  How establishing shots emphasise the geography of the plane before Indy struggles against Pat Roach.  How Indy earlier notes his lack of appreciation for serpents before later being thrown into a pit full of snakes.

In that period just before the National Curriculum was introduced and teachers didn't feel constricted about how to teach or indeed what to teach, I wonder what value any of this had other than to give us access to something which we might not otherwise have encountered at least not in the context of serious discussion rather than pure entertainment.  Part of me wishes he'd been able to go further and still do.  Despite its academia, film is still considered the poor cousin of literature despite, as I've since discovered, having the potential for just as much complexity to tax the young critical mind, both through textual matters, themes, signs and meaning.

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