November 22, 2010
Cthulhu does not sleep! He simply couldn’t get his clay joints moving.
I recently used the 2005 silent-film Cthulhu in class. For those of you who haven’t seen it or don’t even have a desire to watch an adaptation of H. P. Lovecraft’s work… watch it.
Seriously. It’s a very entertaining movie and, unknown to me at the time, one of the greatest tools I’ve ever used as a teacher. I was originally going to use clips from the movie to just teach sentence structure, comprehension, and critical thinking in English. Instead, I found out that silent films actually offer us teachers a few interesting opportunities.
What Did He Say?
Since we gained access to the internet and videos in class, teachers have had the opportunity to use dialogue and real-world applications in lessons. This is invaluable, especially when you’re trying to teach English or any other language. Nothing helps more than hearing and seeing someone use it.
Silent films don’t have spoken dialogue, but they do have narration and occasional speech cards. As the movie progressed, we paused and rewound and we didn’t have to strain to make out any accents or anything similar. In fact, pausing the title cards gave my students the chance to actually read out what the characters were saying and made it feel like an interactive experience.
It was like a weird Rocky Horror show with tentacles.
My First Horror Movie
Call of Cthulhu has some very nice music. It’s the kind of soundtrack you’d expect from the depths of madness and despair brought forth from the unnamed eons of the past… and it’s in the same style as 1920’s silent films. It’s big and bombastic and although there’s some blood some bleeding eyes, cannibalized corpses, and the handiwork of cultists, it doesn’t have the gore factor of modern horror movies.
This is part of what made it so appealing to many of my students. One student in particular had voiced her opposition and revulsion at horror movies, and as the plot unfolded, she was one of the ones paying the most attention. When the lights came back on, she was laughing and giggling along with several other girls.
Black and white film gives us something we’ve been missing for years in the horror genre.
When all you have is acting, lighting, and music to drive your point home, you have to try and hit real fear. You can’t rely on a gore shot or a special effect. You have to actually create the emotions in your audience, and horror is one of the more exhilarating, so not only did they get to watch a movie, but they get a jolt that keeps them awake.
Once Upon an Eon…
Storytelling, real storytelling, is a rare thing. I don’t have cable and frankly, I don’t miss it too much. Call of Cthulhu has the distinction of being one of the many Lovecraft stories that were at one point considered “unfilmable.” It’s set in the 1920s and uses a style usually unknown to many modern audiences.
And that’s what makes it so refreshing.
While the term “Lovecraftian” is easily used by those of us who know of the man’s work or even derivative works, this weird mix of science fiction and horror is a breath of fresh air for a large chunk of the population. Now apply that to a student who is new to American culture, let alone American fiction.
You end up with an experience he or she won’t soon forget.
Bugs Bunny and the Great Learning Era
I learned to speak English thanks to Bugs Bunny. My mother, after a certain point, forbade me from watching television in Spanish. I had to watch it in English, and that included cartoons. My students learned new vocabulary and applied it to the movie they watched, making it stick more than just memorizing. They remember names, plot, and got to interact with the lesson.
My uncle used to say I’d grow up to be a cartoon base don how I talked.
And this is how you teach a language. It’s how you teach anything worth teaching, Make the students interact with it. Make it interesting. Most importantly, don’t let them know they’re learning.
Links tomorrow, then a break until Monday for the holidays. Thanks for reading, and have a Happy Turkey Day. And don’t forget the Big Guy is coming soon…