What to notice in Film and Text and how to convert that into knowledge Film and text are very different mediums and what these mediums will bring out or emphasize in a literary work will vary. Film has the strength of being highly descriptive due to its ability to use video and sound to convey its message. However, film tends to be static and one-dimensional, it doesn’t have the fluidity to capture contradiction or change radically as the story goes along. Text on the other hand can be endlessly rich, full of multiple meanings and our interpretation of the text can change as we change. Therefore, annotation of film and text differs, in film one should notice what has been done and what meaning the directors and actors have extracted from the text.The limitations of film are also important, noticing what has been left out also deepens our understanding of the message. Reading on the other hand is a creative exercise, we build the story according to ourselves and our experiences, and we are can annotate what appears important to us individually. Film as a genre allows the text-based work it was based on(as most films are) to become
Film as a genre allows the text-based work it was based on(as most films are) to become more alive and highly explanatory through non-verbal indicators. Kenneth Branagh’s Hamlet was rife with the use of symbolism to explain Hamlet’s predicament. The castle at Elsinore was a castle with mirrors covered all four corners of the interior. The mirrors were used in scenes like “To Be or Not to Be” where Hamlet reckoned with his reflection. A house of mirrors is a place of confusion, of entrapment and one gets a sense of endless complexity when stuck in one;most of us visited one at amusement parks when we were children. Elsinore plays on this familiar oddity, it too is a place of complex relationships, of many dimensions of confusion, and a place from where the Wittenberg bound Hamlet cannot find a way to truly leave from. It is also a play on Hamlets mind, which itself resembles a house of mirrors, illusion reflecting other illusions, where the correct path forward is hardly found. This kind of allegory was only implied in the text but Branagh’s use of props and the set to build on this theme added depth and power to Hamlet’s reality. Understanding themes through the construction of the environment is rich ground for good note taking. In addition to this, an effective note taker will take into account music, light and shadow, tone of voice, as well as the perspective of the camera as tools that may enhance meaning.
Film also has the limitations of being one interpretation of a text, and one that cannot change and grow. Kenneth Branagh’s Henry provides an image of King Henry as a good and popular English king. In his “Saint Crispin’s Day” speech, Henry has a gentle and understanding voice, pleading with his soldiers. Even when talking about deserters, he waves his hand magnanimously and turns around to say “That he which hath no stomach to this fight,let him depart; his passport shall be made”(see youtube clip 1:15). However was it not the same Henry that earlier threatened rape? “What is’t to me,when you yourselves are cause,If your maidens fall into the hand Of hot and forcing violation?(3.319-3.321). It would also seem strange for the same king who invaded a foreign land due to a technicality in ‘salic law’ or one who asked his soldiers to “dishonour not your mothers”(3.122) so they would fight bravely. This Henry would not easily send his soldiers home on the eve of the most important battle. However, Branagh de-emphasized this Henry and focused on Henry the national hero. As our understanding of the text grows, our notions of who the characters are also changes, but films do not change as our concepts change. Therefore we have to appreciate a film like literary criticism, it is one directors take on a story at one point in time. However, We can annotate the strengths and causes of this interpretation to deepen our understanding of the text , and argue for and against the take of the film.
Ernest Hemingway one wrote to a young writer “It is your object to convey everything to the reader, so that he remembers it not as a story but something that happened to himself” (Maria Popova “Hemingway’s Advice on Writing, ambition and the Art of Revision, and his reading list for aspiring writers”). Rich text is usually pumped full of multiple meanings and implicit notions. A close reading of “Once More Unto the Breach” in King Henry V will generate ideas and opinions depending on the person reading it. One can detect subtle manipulations, from throwing down challenges “Now attest that those whom you call fathers did beget you”(3.123), to elevating their pride “For there is none of you so mean and base, That hath not noble lustre in your eyes”(3.1.30) to subtle betrayals of a peaceful nature: “In peace, there is nothing so becomes a man as modest stillness and humility”(3.14). Weather we pick up on Henry the machiavellian manipulator of crowds, or a gentle king urging reluctant peasants to fight, or a war hero rallying before a sure-defeat of the French will depend upon us.As Hemingway says, a true story is one that happened to ourselves. Conversely, we can only detect within books what we ourselves are able to relate to or have the consciousness to understand. While watching film is mostly the subtle art of detection, reading is a highly personal experience. We summon our own wisdom and experiences and use them to generate a feeling for what the text is trying to portray. Annotation is a creative exercise, we jot down what comes to mind and what intuitively feels significant. While the success of annotating film depends on our ability to spot subtle messages and detect symbolism, our success in annotating literature often comes down to our own sensibilities-how meaning in text corresponds with our intuition about what is happening.
In my learning process, the art of converting information to knowledge has three layers. Firstly, there is the level where we understand merely what we are required to know. Secondly, there is the level where we understand what we see as important in the text. The third level is what Harold bloom calls “reading with one nature”(Bloom, How to Read and Why, Schribner Touchstone 2000). The the first level we generally take notes on what we have been told to detect, there is no creativity involved and we understand a surface level of what we need to know. Knowledge is superficial and verbal. At the second level, we are reading(or watching film) because we are emotionally invested in the content, we store in our minds that which we find important and interesting. If its a good piece of work, it enriches our sensibilities and we have a fuller sense of what our chosen theme is about. Knowledge is not only verbal, but also abstract and intuitive,we have a sense of what is important and what causes things. At the deepest level, learning becomes an esoteric experience. We generally drop the analytical mind and become entirely receptive. We are almost in communion with the text and we have a deep understanding of the core of the work. Oftentimes, ‘the rest is silence’, and we cannot really explain it. A book I have had this kind of experience with was “One Hundred Years of Solitude”. I couldn’t really explain the content of the book or any of the themes, but it enveloped me in a certain silence, a freedom from banality and an appreciation for the tragic nobility of the human experience. The level of internalization directly translates into the kind of argument put forward. In my experience, a basic level of internalization usually gives way to a bland, unoriginal argument, like “Hamlet was angry because his mother married his uncle”. A second level argument could explore a theme and be more nuanced “King Henry was a megalomaniac rather than a righteous king”. A deep understanding of the text may give rise to a meta-theme, where a deep, core question is brought forward in light of a real understanding of a text.