Metropolis (1927)

SmartLessons, Sophie's Tips, Tips and Tricks, Video Highlights

timothy-eberly-382663-unsplashFritz Lang’s 1927 film Metropolis was ground breaking in many ways. At the time, it was the most expensive German film ever made, costing over 5 million reichsmarks and taking 17 months to film, nearly financially capsizing the production studio, UFA. As one of the first feature length science fiction films ever made, Metropolis is an expansive story that is renowned even today for its extravagant scenery, art direction, cinematography and utilisation of German expressionist techniques. At its original run time of 153 minutes, it was one of the longest films made, contributing to its initial financial failure, as it required over four kilometres of film to run it, a weighty investment for any theatre. With the science fiction genre as we know it today still largely being defined in this era (Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, often considered the first work of science fiction, was published in 1818), it was a difficult film to categorise and advertise. Indeed, an advertisement from New Zealand reads ‘See it! Try to describe it!’ Nonetheless, it has since become recognised as a highly influential film, becoming the first film to be inscribed on UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register in 2001, and is widely studied in schools today for both its historical context as part of the Weimar Republic, an example of early science fiction, German Expressionism and the utilisation of the silent film genre.

The film was accompanied by a novelisation, published in 1925 by director Fritz Lang’s then-wife and credited screenwriter, Thea von Harbou. However, it was the film that really made an impact, with many praising its technical prowess whilst simultaneously lambasting it as being overlong and overwrought. Mordaunt Hall of the New York Times called it “a technical marvel with feet of clay”, whilst renowned sci-fi author H.G Wells criticised the film as being rampant with “foolishness, cliché, platitude and muddlement about mechanical progress and progress in general.” Regardless of these criticisms, Metropolis has undoubtedly had an impact upon contemporary science fiction, with as film critic Roger Ebert stated “from this film in various ways, descended not only ‘Dark City’, but ‘Blade Runner’, ‘The Fifth Element’, ‘Alphaville’, Escape From L.A’, ‘Gattaca’ and Batman’s Gotham City… Rotwang created the visual look of mad scientists for decades to come, especially after it was mirrored in ‘The Bride of Frankenstein’… the device of the ‘false Maria’… inspired the ‘Replicants’ of ‘Blade Runner.’” It was one of the first examples of the dystopia / utopia theme in science fiction, something that has continued to be explored (e.g.: 1984, Brave New World, Never Let Me Go, The Matrix, etc.) and has seen a resurgence in recent years.

The film’s most famous quote, “the mediator between head and hands must be the heart” reverberates throughout the entire film, with Metropolis demonstrating a schism between the upper and lower classes. In this case it is literal, with the lower classes living underground and the upper classes living amongst the sprawling excess of the city, overshadowed by their monolithic buildings, which are a combination of the grandeur of Greco-Roman architecture and luxe, geometric (harking back to the streamlined appearance of machines) Art Deco. Indeed, the sets appear to dwarf the actors, with the machines and the structures taking visual precedence. This is exemplified when Freder imagines one of the machines as Moloch, a Canaanite god / idol that required child sacrifice that is referenced in Leviticus. This precedence of machines is rectified by the end of the film, but this also highlights Lang’s propensity for biblical allusions throughout the film- the tower of Babel, the idolatress of Babylon and the beast with seven heads, Maria as a virtuous Mary figure preaching to the workers, Freder as a Christlike mediator between above and below, the gardens as a reference to Eden, etc. This lends the story gravity and also helped in creating a grounding point for the audience, references that they were familiar with amongst the fantastical landscape Lang presented.

Metropolis was released during the ‘golden era’ of the Weimar Republic, a brief period of stability and prosperity in Germany, prior to World War II. With a permanent currency implemented in 1923 and the Dawes Plan in 1924, it sparked a cultural renaissance, born in the wake of World War I, the immense hyperinflation and the influence of the cultural development in the Soviet Union. Innovations in German cinema, literature, architecture (particularly Bauhaus), film, art and theatre came to the forefront, with a fascination with the ‘ultramodern’ in addition to the mediums of cabaret and jazz and an overall differentiation from more traditional German values- an influence that is certainly explored in Metropolis. There was a certain contention between the pull of traditional values versus the influence of globalisation and the influx of other cultures, particularly America (via American films and fashion), with Americanisation progressing largely due to the Dawes Plan.

German Expressionism was at its peak during this time, with Metropolis being a prime example. It was more concerned with the evocation of a particular mood and aimed to show a highly subjective view of the world, as compared to the strict realism and somewhat detached perspective of art and film previously. This internal perspective was highly effective and necessary in silent film, given the absence of audible dialogue. This was characterised by evocative lighting (particularly via chiaroscuro, obviously highlighting certain objects / characters and casting others in shadow) and utilising different camera angles and perspectives. In the post World War I environment, there was an increased fascination with the human psyche, madness and the question of identity, as life as most people knew it had been irrevocably shifted.

Metropolis is a highly influential film that is broadly studied today. Whether you are exclusively studying the film or the Weimar Republic, 20th century Germany, the development of silent film or the consolidation of the science fiction genre, it is an important piece of culture that is still highly relevant.

Here’s a list of TV4Education resources in relation to this subject. If you use the SmartSuite version of TV4Education, just search for the titles below on your site:

Metropolis (Movie 1927)

German Expressionism: Crash Course Film History #7

Fritz Lang Interviewed by William Friedkin (1974)

The Silent Era: Crash Course Film History #9

The History of Cinema- Silent Era

BBC Paul Mertons Weird and Wonderful World of Early Cinema

Generation War (Part One)

Dawes Plan

Ten Minute History- The Weimar Republic and Nazi Germany (Short Documentary)

The Great Depression: Crash Course US History #33

 

 

The Renaissance

SmartLessons, Sophie's Tips, Tips and Tricks, Video Highlights

eric-terrade-8615-unsplashThe Renaissance is one of the most fascinating and innovative periods in history, and also one of the most hotly debated. There is much contention as to whether or not it can really be considered, as the term Renaissance suggests, a ‘rebirth’ of society, following the Middle Ages, especially with its deep roots and harking back to Greco-Roman classicism, two empires that were recognised as having ‘fallen’ almost a thousand years previously. Additionally, there is also debate as to whether or not it was a series of independent discoveries and philosophies made over several centuries (the Renaissance is commonly agreed to have been between c. 14th-17th centuries A.D) as opposed to a centralised movement. Regardless of one’s position on the matter, the Renaissance gave birth to some of the most innovative works of art, literature, architecture, inventions and discoveries in science and medicine that the world has seen since.

Originating in Florence, Italy, the Renaissance spread over the majority of Europe in the following centuries. It was grounded in the philosophy of humanism, which largely sought to hark back to the values of classical Greece and Rome, aiming to create a people group that were educated and literate, capable of utilising the studies of the humanities (e.g. philosophy, history, poetry, rhetoric, etc.) for the betterment of their broader society, rather than it being an elusive mark of status. It was the idea of humanism that largely birthed the popular idea of the ‘Renaissance man’- one that was well versed in everything from literature to art, Greek and Roman myths, science, history, theology, engineering and even stonemasonry, as opposed to focusing all their attention upon their designated trade. This Renaissance ideal is epitomised in many of the icons of the era, à la Galileo, Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo. Da Vinci, for example, whilst likely best known as a painter, also considered himself a philosopher, engineer, sculptor, engineer, architect and more, whilst Michelangelo was also an architect and poet in addition to being a renowned sculptor and painter, with a keen interest in anatomy. There was a central ideology of this ‘whole’ education informing every aspect of their lives and working practice as opposed to a more isolated focus.

The Renaissance period is perhaps most commonly renowned for its art, after all, it is responsible for masterpieces such as the ‘Mona Lisa’, Michelangelo’s ‘David’, ‘The Last Supper’, Botticelli’s ‘The Birth of Venus’ and many more. There was a huge elevation in the status of the artist during this period, largely due to patronage from wealthy clients such as the Medici and Borgia families. The influence of humanism is evident in much of the art, with artist’s knowledge of mathematics, anatomy, architecture, etc. vastly developing art in a way that had not  previously been widespread. Additionally, the ideals and newfound fascination with classicism’s interest in accurate anatomy and fascination with the physical form partnered with the religious influence and monetary support of the Church paved the way for many masterpieces on a scale never before seen in history, obvious in works such as Michelangelo’s ‘David’, ‘Pieta’ and Sistine Chapel Ceiling. The grandeur of religion was fully fledged and the asceticism previously demonstrated in Christianity largely fell from favour, at least in regards to art and architecture.

Whilst the period may be most commonly renowned for its contributions to art and architecture, it also gave birth to some incredibly revolutionary inventions: the printing press, the mechanical clock, the telescope, the microscope, eyeglasses, the barometer, italics, the violin, the anemometer, the list goes on. In short, the Renaissance undoubtedly shaped our cultural view of the modern world as we know it, be it Galileo’s radical advances in astronomy or Gutenberg’s printing press.

The Renaissance period is one of the most influential times in history, arguably being a catalyst for the world as we know it today. Its effect is visible in almost every field and subject, with the explorations of art, science, literature and more largely forming the foundation for contemporary culture in the West. Whilst it may be more explicitly studied in art or history, knowledge of the Renaissance period will undoubtedly benefit any students understanding of their subject.

Here’s a list of TV4Education resources in relation to this subject. If you use the SmartSuite version of TV4Education, just search for the titles below on your site:

The Renaissance Unchained- God, Myths and Oil Paints (S01E01)

Italy Unpacked

Self Portraits of the Me Generation- Togetherness (S01E01)

Great Scientists- Galileo

Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man of Math

Inside the Mind of Leonardo

The Caravaggio Affair

The Nude in Art with Tim Marlow, The Renaissance, EP2

Bronzino Restoring Genius

Masterpieces of the Hermitage Raphael, Da Vinci & The High Italian Renaissance S01 E11

Masterpieces of the Hermitage Art of the Early Italian Renaissance S1 E10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

John Steinbeck

SmartLessons, Sophie's Tips, Tips and Tricks, Video Highlights

debby-hudson-571368-unsplashJohn Steinbeck (1902-1968) was one of the most influential American writers of the 20th century, dubbed ‘a giant of American letters’ and shaping the face of modern literature along with other giants of the craft such as Hemingway, Faulkner and Fitzgerald. Having won both the Pulitzer and Nobel Prize in his lifetime, it is undeniable that his work resonated deeply with his readers, renowned for his syncretism of realism and imagination, and perhaps most profoundly, his social commentary. This is perhaps most famously displayed in his magnum opus, the 1939 tome The Grapes of Wrath, detailing the influence of the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression on American families. It is this acute depiction of wider historical and social issues that were sweeping America that has, in part, made his body of work so enduring and widely studied to this day.

Growing up in California, Steinbeck utilised this ground as the basis for much of his work- East of Eden, Cannery Row, Tortilla Flat, The Grapes of Wrath, The Red Pony and many more were centred around this locale, capturing in part the nostalgia and mythicism of childhood and the fables he grew up, largely influenced by the nobility of the stories of King Arthur and tempered with the realism of the people he grew up with: the ‘paisanos’ and ranch hands and ordinary working class of America. This fascination with lore and legend is apparent throughout much of his work, influencing his voice in stories such as Tortilla Flat, where he explicitly poses Danny and his ramshackle friends as knights of the Round Table.

With Steinbeck’s body of work amounting to 27 books throughout his lifetime, Steinbeck was renowned for his social perception and adhered largely to the old adage of ‘write what you know’- mirrored through his portrayals of central California and the people who lived there, in addition to the plights and influence of the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression. It is this correlation between his life and what Steinbeck wrote that ensures that an understanding of his life is crucial to the study of his work. Despite his statement that ‘writers are a little below clowns and a little above trained seals’, his work has had an enduring influence beyond the factor of entertainment, and he is touted today as having produced some of the seminal great American novels of the 20th century.

Here’s a list of TV4Education resources in relation to this subject. If you use the SmartSuite version of TV4Education, just search for the titles below on your site:

Great Writers- John Steinbeck

A Letter to Elia

The Grapes of Wrath (movie 1940)

Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck audiobook part 1

Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck audiobook part 2

John Steinbeck: An American Writer

John Steinbeck gives Nobel Prize Speech

Of Mice and Men (1992)

 

 

 

 

The Archibald Prize

SmartLessons, Sophie's Tips, Tips and Tricks, Video Highlights

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The Archibald Prize is arguably the most prestigious and iconic portraiture award in Australia. Since its commencement in 1921 at the posthumous bequest of J.F Archibald, a former co-owner and editor of The Bulletin, the Prize has been the cause of much controversy and media attention, consolidating the career of many artists. Whilst it isn’t the highest paying Australian portraiture prize ($100,000 to the Moran’s $150,000), it is far better known, and for good reason, with J.F Archibald’s edict stating that the portraits are to be ‘preferentially of some man or woman distinguished in art, letters, science or politics, painted by any artist resident in Australasia’. As such, the Archibald has oft depicted well known people of varying degrees of celebrity: politicians, actors, musicians, sports stars, other artists (à la Ben Quilty’s portrait of Australian icon Margaret Olley in 2011).

As we fast approach the centenary of the prize with today’s announcement of the 2018 winner, Yvette Coppersmith’s ‘Self-portrait, after George Lambert’, the Prize has demonstrated how portraiture has moved strictly from realism to a more emotive mode of painting. This was first particularly noted after the controversy surrounding the now infamous painting ‘Portrait of an Artist (Joshua Smith)’ by Sir William Dobell (whose portrait of Dame Mary Gilmore is featured on the Australian $10 notes)which won the prize in 1943, calling into question the nature and guidelines of portraiture, with the work being contested in the Supreme Court of New South Wales by two other entrants for falling into the genre of caricature as opposed to portraiture and thus not eligible for the prize. Nonetheless, their verdict was overturned and the Archibald has continued to be a demonstration of the changing face of art within Australia.

In 2014, there were over 130,000 tickets sold to the finalist exhibitions for the Archibald, Wynne and Sulman prizes, and it is an event that attracts over $1 million in profit each year, with that number only climbing. There is criticism that it is, to quote gallery owner Michael Reid, ‘a media circus’ as opposed to a respected art prize. Regardless of opinion, it has undoubtedly cemented its place in the Australian art world and provides a platform for artists such as Ben Quilty, Del Kathryn Barton, Yvette Coppersmith, Fiona Lowry and more to be recognised outside of the often introspective sphere of the art world.

Portraiture is so often stereotyped as a stoic, bygone form of art, with Dobell stating during the Joshua Smith case that ‘so long as people expect paintings to be simply coloured photographs they get no individuality and in the case of portraits, no characterisation. The real artist is striving to depict his subject’s character and to stress the caricature, but at least it is art which is alive.’ That is not to say that realism is out dated and irrelevant, but that the nature of portraiture goes beyond capturing a physical likeness of the subject. It is perhaps this unique insight of the artist, particularly when applied to so many notable figures in Australian culture, that has made the Archibald Prize the icon that it is today.

Here’s a list of TV4Education resources in relation to this subject. If you use the SmartSuite version of TV4Education, just search for the titles below on your site:

The Archibald- Welcome to the Archibald (S01E01)

The Archibald- First Strokes (S01E02)

The Archibald- D Day (S01E03)

The Archibald- And The Winner Is (S01E04)

Julia Zemiro’s Home Delivery- Ben Quilty

Artscape Paths to Portraiture

Art Nation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Was There- The Great War Interviews

SmartLessons, Sophie's Tips, Tips and Tricks, Video Highlights

stijn-swinnen-259744-unsplashI Was There- The Great War Interviews is a fantastic resource for students studying World War I. Extrapolating upon the original 1964 documentary series The Great War, this documentary provides a deeper look at the original collation of 280 eyewitness interviews, with never-before-seen footage of both soldiers and civilians. Thus, it provides invaluable insight into the behemoth that is WWI.

It is often easy to become overwhelmed by the sheer scale of an event like WWI, whereas I Was There- The Great War Interviews offers a deeply personal perspective, with interviews from a broad range of primary sources, from celebrated author Mabel Lethbridge O.B.E, soldiers Sebastian C. Lang, Charles Carrington, Wilhelm Eisenthal, factory worker Katie Morter, and many more.  In addition to this, both the Allied and Central sides are represented, thus significantly minimising any inherent bias.

Whilst the overall strategic and historical outlines are not discussed in great detail, the documentary explores the human relations of the war, such as the methods of recruitment, be it women using white feathers to represent cowardice, propaganda posters, the utilisation of music hall stars like Vesta Tilley, pro-war effort music and film, etc., all designed to solicit enlistment. It also showcases the changing attitudes of towards the war, from the initial excitement and euphoria to the grim realisation of the horrors of the battlefield, with soldier Frank Brent stating that ‘…it (the war) required that we should live in animal conditions… inevitable that we would develop the animal characteristic of killing.’

Furthermore, the documentary successfully displays the disparity between soldiers and civilians, with former soldier Charles Carrington stating ‘one was seemingly annoyed by their (civilians) attempts to sympathise… which only really reflects that they didn’t understand at all’, whilst Mabel Lethbridge noted a ‘…a strange lack of ability to communicate… to tell us (civilians) what it was really like… They were restless at home… They didn’t want to stay home. They wanted to get back.’

The battlefield is displayed as a kind of microcosm, running from being ‘an inferno’, with the apparent need to ‘exact retribution’ from the enemy, to the Easter and Christmas armistices and the ‘deceptive peace’ that fraternisation with the enemy brought, with men singing together in the trenches, exchanging gifts and addresses for after the war.  The documentary aims to explore multiple facets of the human experience of the Great War, recognising that to focus on only one would be to vastly limit its representation of this vast moment in history.

I Was There- The Great War Interviews proves to be a deeply personal look at a time in history that has deeply rooted itself in our collective psyche. The utilisation of such a wide range of primary sources will certainly be of interest to students and assist in broadening their understanding of WWI.

Here’s a list of TV4Education resources that can be used in relation to the topics covered in this post. If you use the SmartSuite version of TV4Education just search for the titles below on your site.

I Was There- The Great War Interviews

Lest We Forget What- The Commemoration of WW1 and the ANZAC Legend

100 Years of ANZAC: The Spirit Lives 2014-2018, World War 1, Conscription (S01E21)

The Panzer

World War I’s Tunnels of Death- The Killing Fields (S01E01)

14 Diaries of the Great War- Into the Abyss (S01E01)

The War that Changed Us- Answering the Call (S01E01)

 

Fry’s Planet Word: Babel

SmartLessons, Sophie's Tips, Tips and Tricks, Video Highlights

patrick-tomasso-71909-unsplashWhat is the value of language? Indeed, why is it something that we study, or devote the slightest iota of attention to? ‘Babel’, the first episode of Fry’s Planet Word, presented by Stephen Fry, explores this very notion, focussing upon the origins of language as a uniquely human concept, helping both teachers and students to gain a greater understanding of this foundational method of communication and thus obtain a greater appreciation, both of its importance and how it continues to shift and develop over time.

At its root, language is the grounding method of communication, but it does far more than that, with the acquisition and development of our utilisation of language being, according to Fry, ‘the most complex bit of brain processing that we know of.’ It goes beyond an animalistic need to communicate fear, hunger, danger, etc., becoming a nuanced social medium that differentiates vastly from person to person based upon a multitude of factors: the particular language you speak, the breadth of your personal vocabulary and manner in which you use it, the register that you use, whether or not in is appropriate to use idioms and colloquialisms regarding the situation, the list goes on and on. In short, language is something that uniquely identifies us, but also allows us to find commonality and communicate with those around us.

At present, there are approximately 7,000 languages in use today, varying from a handful of users, to over a billion. Whilst many of these languages differentiate in their conception of sentence structure, complexity, breadth of vocabulary, whether or not they are vocalised (in the case of sign language), the vast majority are made up of the same basic components: nouns, to identify things; adjectives, to describe them; verbs, to tell you what they do. It is from the use of these building blocks that much of what we identify as being a uniquely human quality springs from, a sinuous and consistently changing lens through which our worldview is shaped, in addition to allowing other people to share in our perspective.

Fry demonstrates the pervasive and fundamental nature of language in ‘Babel’ through a myriad of ways: the initial acquisition of language as the documentary tracks 15 month old Ruby over a one year period, philology, the comparisons between the Turkana language and English, how communication methods between animals are vastly different than those explored in humans, the determining factors on if a language flourishes or dies out, how our brains are affected by language use, and many other topics.

‘Babel’ proves to be an informative and uniquely insightful glance into the value of language and how it underpins so much of our daily lives, and will prove to be of particular interest to English and Language students as a supplement to their primary studies.

Here’s a list of TV4Education resources that can be used in relation to the topics covered in this post. If you use the SmartSuite version of TV4Education just search for the titles below on your site.

Fry’s Planet Word- Babel (S01E01)

The Sound of Aus (2007) 

TED-ED Lessons Worth Sharing- The Controversial Origins of the Encyclopedia

How I’m Discovering the Secrets of Ancient Texts

 

Raising Pompeii

SmartLessons, Sophie's Tips, Tips and Tricks, Video Highlights

caitlin-wynne-462953-unsplashRaising Pompeii, presented by Michael Buerk, provides a fantastic introduction to the study of Pompeii. It is a unique resource in that it showcases the former Roman port city in all its former glory, thanks to state-the-art computer imagery, in addition to its current state. Thus, it helps students to straddle the necessary perspectives of any historian: past and present, and the unmitigated correlation between the two.

The eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD undoubtedly consolidated Pompeii’s place in history. Located along the Bay of Naples and once considered one of the gateways to the Roman empire, Pompeii was once home to an estimated 12,000 people. Today, it hosts approximately 3 million tourists every year. What is the reason for this intense fascination? Is it merely a sense of morbid curiosity surrounding the deaths of those who died in the Plinean eruption on August 24th, 79 AD? Mayhap, but it is also due to the fact that it is so rare for us to be offered such a holistic look at life in an ancient city. Pompeii is certainly unique in this regard, the very eruption that devastated its inhabitants also serving to make a lasting vignette of their lives, due to the thick layer of ash and pumice that was wrought over the city during the pyroclastic flow.

Indeed, Buerk concerns himself primarily with the notion of bringing ‘this city back to life’ and the lives that those in Pompeii led, not their grisly demise. Aided with computer generated reproductions, Raising Pompeii showcases Pompeii as it would have been in the 1st century AD, drawing on a wealth of knowledge from an array of archaeologists and historians such as Dr Sophie Hay and Peter Ellis. Every aspect of life in Pompeii is explored, from the agricultural industry, made possible by the rich volcanic soil, their production of wine and the infamous fish sauce garum, their imports and exports as a port city, diet, entertainment and even the utilisation of cosmetics are all discussed, as Buerk leads us through a sweeping look at life in Pompeii.

However, Buerk is also sure to provide specific examples of Pompeian life, leading us through the niche Porta Marina district and the house and bar of Sextus Pompeius Amarantus, showcasing the value of hospitality within Roman society as a platform with which to demonstrate your status, be it via the grand atrium or the food that was offered to guests, consolidating the class divide within Roman culture. He also demonstrates the importance of the forum within Roman society, be it as a political, religious (as showcased by the dominating presence of the temples of Jupiter, Apollo and Vespa) or social platform. We also delve into the importance of sports within Pompeian society, particularly gladiators and the Roman taste for the macabre. Buerk takes us around the amphitheatre, a veritable monolith of architecture and the first stone structure of its kind in Italy, made to host up to 20,000 people. Overall, every aspect showcased serves as a heady reminder of the might and grandeur of the ancient Roman empire.

Raising Pompeii serves as a fantastic introduction to the world of Pompeii and Ancient Rome in general, and will undoubtedly serve to pique student’s interest beyond the events of the eruption, providing a broader context with which to ground their study.

Here’s a list of TV4Education resources that can be used in relation to the topics covered in this post. If you use the SmartSuite version of TV4Education just search for the titles below on your site.

Raising Pompeii

Pompeii Life Before Death

Pompeii Cellar of Skeletons

Pompeii- New Secrets Revealed

The Other Pompeii- Life and Death in Herculaneum

Shakespeare For Today

SmartLessons, Sophie's Tips, Tips and Tricks, Video Highlights

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William Shakespeare is undoubtedly one of the greatest playwrights in history, and likely the best known. His work is still broadly studied and performed worldwide, more than four centuries after his death- so how has his work acquired a stereotype of being fusty, irrelevant and difficult to decipher?

Whether or not you are aware of it, Shakespeare’s work has cemented itself in the collective conscience of our society. For example, look at these common sayings and idioms: a foregone conclusion, a sea change, a sorry sight, dead as a doornail, all’s well that ends well, be all and end all, foul play, green eyed monster, hot-blooded, a charmed life, lie low, in a pickle, in stitches, I have not slept a wink, night owl, up in arms, woe is me, wild goose chase– the list goes on and on. What do these have in common? They were all originally coined by Shakespeare.

Perhaps one of the greatest errors in the study of his work is to concentrate solely upon the transcriptions of his plays: Shakespeare counted himself as a playwright, and thus his plays are designed to be performed to an audience as a visual medium, and not limited to the page. Given a performance of his work, the cadences of language and utilisation of techniques such as metaphor and iambic pentameter immediately become apparent to students, opening up the apparent barriers between our modern English and that of Shakespeare’s day. This allows students to better utilise their knowledge of the themes and motifs being explored within his work, rather than being bogged down by individual stanzas, without understanding the broader context of the act, or indeed the piece as a whole.

Indeed, perhaps the reason Shakespeare has been such an enduring influence upon our society is due to the commonality of the human experience that is explored within his work. Whether you are studying works as fanciful as the comedy A Midsummer Night’s Dream or the romance The Tempest, his histories or his tragedies, they are all rooted in the tribulations, the joys, the melancholy and the general experience of what it is to be human. Love, loss, revenge and political intrigue are all common threads within his work, and it is largely for this reason that Shakespeare has stood the test of time- think of any popular film, television series, book or popular culture phenomenon, past or present, and they will likely be grounded in at least one of these things. Shakespeare was considered a vastly accessible playwright in his time, with every class coming to view his work. To be accessible to so many, he had to tap into the commonality between them all.

Another common error in studying his work is to purely view Shakespeare’s work through our own 21st century lens, without consideration for the historical, social and political context in which he was writing in. The culmination of this is often a sense of isolation and irrelevance on the part of students, or a complete misrepresentation of the original themes, such as an overt attachment of colonialist overtones to The Tempest. Whilst the universality of his plays and the exploration of our current context is an important addition to any textual study, it is just as vitally important to hold in consideration the viewpoints and broader context that Shakespeare was writing in.

As has been established, it is a necessity to study Shakespeare using a range of methods and angles, in order to better consolidate our understanding and bring his work to life. Here at TV4Education, we have a vast collection of material to better assist with this. Be it the fantastic Shakespeare Uncovered series, that delves into the context that Shakespeare wrote the play in whilst also examining how it the work continues to evolve, its relevance in today’s society, and the different facets that are explored by different actors, productions and scholars; or Lenny Henry Finding Shakespeare, a witty, down-to-earth look at how Shakespeare was originally for everybody, how this has changed over time, and how to rectify this; or the numerous of productions of his work in our collection, from Richard II, Othello, Romeo and Juliet, The Taming of the Shrew, The Tempest and many more.

Whilst close study of the written text is an important facet, viewing Shakespeare in action and accessing  a variety of perspectives through the medium of multimedia will prove to be an invaluable tool and addition to the classroom. The amalgamation of these learning techniques will foster an increased appreciation of Shakespeare’s work, something that will be enjoyed for years to come.

Here’s a list of TV4Education resources that can be used in relation to the topics covered in this post. If you use the SmartSuite version of TV4Education just search for the titles below on your site.

Shakespeare Uncovered – Series

Lenny Henry Finding Shakespeare

The Taming of The Shrew

Romeo and Juliet

Shakespeare Animated – Series

Horrible Histories Special Sensational Shakespeare

Othello

Hamlet

Insults by Shakespeare

Relates to Australian Curriculum Codes;

ACHAH070, ACDSEH059, ACELA1500, ACHHS070, ACHHS086, ACHHS124

Churchill’s Darkest Decision

SmartLessons, Sophie's Tips, Video Highlights

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In light of the Churchill documentary available through the Foxtel Movies Channel, Sophie, our new lesson planning pro, has put together a detailed review just for you.

Richard Bond’s 2009 documentary, Churchill’s Darkest Decision, provides a fascinating look at Winston Churchill’s initiative to mobilise the controversial naval Operation Catapult in July 1940. Bond’s primary focus is upon the Attack of Mers-el-Kébir in Algeria, in addition to the catalysts that culminated in this event, which resulted in the death of 1,297 Frenchmen within 10 minutes- at the time it was the highest death toll of any naval action since the commencement of World War II.

Churchill’s Darkest Decision details the rapidly shifting allegiances of WWII, demonstrating the often fickle nature of alliances in the face of this nouveau warfare and the overt threat of Nazi Germany. Key personalities such as Admiral François Darlan, President Roosevelt, Prime Minister Mackenzie King, James Somerville and Marcel-Bruno Gensoul are all noted, with Bond deftly exploring the closely interwoven political machinations of these figures in regards to Churchill.

However, the documentary isn’t limited to the perspectives of these figures, providing a further revelation into the complications of warfare via the utilisation of primary sources such as Robert Philpott (HMS Hood) and Léon le Roux (Battleship Dunkerque). Both men were teenagers at the time of the attack, serving on the British and French navies respectively, and are called upon to relay their indignation and horror at Britain turning upon their former allies, noting the confusion, the screams and bloodshed of what later became referred to as the ‘French Pearl Harbour.’ Many who were serving were ignorant of France’s changed political status, with France having surrendered to Germany only weeks prior- thus many Frenchmen believed that the British were coming to aid them, rather than open fire.

This political ignorance stands in stark contrast to the greater landscape of Churchill’s administration, the latter extending back to the genesis of his time in office (May 10th 1940). Operation Catapult was a direct result of several factors: a broken agreement between France and Britain’s terms for capitulation; the necessity of obtaining favour from the US in order to obtain naval aide; and the looming threat of the combined forces of France, Germany and Italy’s naval resources. Because whilst Britain had the largest navy, it was spread exceedingly thin over Britain’s vast empire, and their numbers didn’t compare to the aforementioned trio.

Bond establishes an immersive atmosphere, be it via the contents of Churchill’s numerous telegrams to President Roosevelt, the newsreels and primary footage surrounding and of the event, the displays of reactionary Nazi propaganda or the dichotomy of the reaction of the home front and the House of Commons in contrast to the recounted horrors of the front line. And whilst the primary focus is upon the events of Mers-el-Kébir, Bond ensures that the naval escapades of Alexandria, Britain and the scuttling of ships in Toulon are all included.

Overall, this documentary is a fantastic addition to the study of WWII, the personality of the eponymous Churchill and the intersecting nature of political and military forces. Whilst it provides a brief vignette of the pivotal event that was WWII, it also provides students with a great example of the effectiveness of collating a variety of sources, in addition to clearly demonstrating the pressure-cooker environment that was the Churchill government.

Here’s a list of TV4Education resources that can be used in relation to the topics covered in this post.

Churchill’s Darkest Decision

Churchill (2017)

Churchill and the Fascist Plot

Churchill’s First World War

Relates to Australian Curriculum Codes;

ACHMH130, ACHMH131, ACHMH132, ACHMH134, ACOKFH019, ACDSEH088, ACDSEH021