Daniel Leong: Notes Reflection

As a result of being a quick thinker, a visual learner, and generally forgetful person, I much prefer electronic note taking when watching films, but find colored pens to be invaluable when analyzing text. I also find it beneficial to assume that everything done in a film or text is entirely intentional and, as though I were interviewing the director/author, I often ask myself: “What does this mean, and why is this way?”

This kind of thinking does limit my ability to take notes on film somewhat, as there is simply too much information about music, lighting, angles and shots for me to question and write about while viewing. For this reason, I often choose to focus primarily on choices pertaining to music and lighting as (Owing to my background in orchestra and video advertising) they are the simplest for me to understand. In terms of what I actually write down, I find that because of my forgetful but thorough nature it’s often in my best interest to write down words or phrases that help me remember what I was thinking at the time of viewing, rather than writing down exactly what I’m thinking. For example, with regards to music, while viewing the Crispin’s Day speech of Branagh’s Henry V I might write something along the lines of:

  • High diss shots +tymp = fear (Odds–)
  • Henry! low chord+add inst. + cresc chords=hope(Voice++)

As opposed to writing out:

  • The director chose dissonant shots from the high strings coupled with the steady tympani beat to indicate grim prospects for Henry’s soldiers.
  • When King Henry appears, the music switches from shots to major chords from the low strings. Their crescendo, coupled with the addition of many more instruments is matched by the volume of Henry’s voice and gives a hopeful, inspiring tone to the rest of his speech.

The fault in this method of note taking is that it is entirely dependent on my ability to recall what I was thinking. That being said, I find that though I’m occasionally unable to recollect my initial thought process, taking these kinds of notes gives me the opportunity to pay closer attention to the structure of scenes/sequences as a whole and how the elements I focus on (Music and lighting) fit into the larger picture. I know I’ve taken good notes when I look at them at home and remember instantly what I was seeing and why I thought what I thought.

 

Of course, no such problem of forgetting exists with text, as I can read and re-read to my heart’s content. With regards to note-taking, I often prefer to reformat and print out my own versions of passages so as to have ample room for annotation using colored pens. I’ve tried highlighters in the past, however, since I ask myself both “What does this mean?” and also “Why is it this way?” when reading, I find colored pens to be better for allowing me to precisely articulate my thoughts on specific words or phrases.

As a result of this method of thinking, I primarily look for meaning in specific diction, word connotations, and consonance/assonance as I find that the choice of words and how they sound are often the building blocks for the larger meanings of passages. Using the same example of the Crispin’s Day speech, I would underline every word pertaining to the idea of fellowship or brotherhood in blue, circle every example of alliteration in orange, every repetition of “Crispin” or “Crispian” in green, every word pertaining to ideas of battle in red and every word pertaining to ideas of remembrance in purple. Any thoughts I have regarding any of these themes I could then write down in their respective color and immediately connect them tangibly to the text. Having a general understanding of a particular play’s themes as a whole then enables me to quickly categorize and assign meanings to the specific use of these words/literary devices.

This does mean, of course, that I sometimes miss out on literary devices such as allusion, foreshadowing, metaphor, personification, etc. However, if the themes of the overall play are consistent throughout, I hardly think that a thorough analysis of diction will cause me to miss out on significant meaning coming from another literary device when considering plays as a whole.

Overall, my strategy of note taking hasn’t evolved much with respect to text since high school, however, the film-focus of this course has allowed for significant development in my note-taking for film.

Samuel Martyn: Notes Reflection

My notes are awful. They are sparse and happen relatively infrequently. Particularly for reading a play or watching film. They are nondescript for the most part. If anyone aside from me was to look at my notes, they would not gain much, if anything at all.

Most of my annotation when it comes to going through the text of a play, does not consist of writing words between the lines or in the margins. I circle, highlight, and underline words or phrases of significance. I usually read the scene/passage out loud, and make these annotations during or after. This is so I can gauge the emotion, flow, and emphasis of the passage. The few words I write in are only to describe the emotion or tone of the speaker.

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The reason for my style of note-taking (or lack thereof) is that once I read or hear the text a couple of times through, I can process it quite easily. I also find it more beneficial to return and re-read the entire passage to remember or understand the text than to try and interpret what the annotation I wrote in at a prior time means. Following a single story-line with the same characters throughout the text, I can very easily process and engage in what is happening without taking many notes.

This sentiment is even further experienced when I watch a film. I rarely take notes while watching film. By actively pairing the narrative with faces and voices, and literally having the text played out in front of my eyes, I almost immediately process and internalize what is happening. Film is my favourite medium (aside from music) for the sole fact that I can recall its information so quickly and accurately. The only time I will write down a note from a film is when there is a line that I want to remember, or a song on the soundtrack that I want to download at a later time.

The only other time in which I will write something down while watching a film or reading a play text, is when I want to be looking for categorical or symbolic representations within the medium. However, these will not be specific things I write down, it will be more like “watch for: lighting shifts, change in tone, music”, etc. I do this instead of in depth, specific notes, because I want to be engaged with the text medium itself, rather than try to keep up with both note taking and observation and then end up missing something significant within the text.

My notes are typically not successful in the sense that they should be. When I do annotations, I typically look back a few days later and have absolutely no idea what it means. When it comes to the final exam however, I do realize that this choice of extremely limited annotation may cause some issues for me. I take notes in my history classes, when there are not necessarily story lines or narratives, or consistent characters that make the material a linear, thematic text. Annotations done on my part do not help me comprehend English literature any better.

My notes may come across as “insufficient” to others or, it may seem as if I am not engaging in the text, but that could not be farther from the truth. Notes are just not how I find I can actively engage the text.

Marisol Calzada: Notes Reflection

Note taking for me has always been fairly difficult. In grade school I always struggled with finding a note taking style that worked for me; I remember using a different style of note taking every month along with different pens, highlighters, tabs, etc. Nothing seemed to work until I got into university. University courses made me realize that not only am I a visual learner, but I learn and remember best through repetition.

For me note taking had been very traditional, using a notebook and a pen; recently I started taking notes on my iPad Pro and it’s been working so well for me because I can split the screen between my note taking app and other resources I’m using. In this class I have found that my note taking has changed throughout the semester. At first I would write down everything that was on the powerpoint slides shown in class, and as the course progressed I learned how to decipher the notes and jot down the most important points presented.

Annotating on an iPad

Taking notes while reading a Shakespeare play-text is a little more challenging for me. I can’t read the text like I normally would a book and that frustrates me. I have to break the text down into sections – usually by the characters dialogue. After I break the text down, I read it “normally” the first time and then again a second time trying to understand the overall meaning of the passage. After I grasped the vague understanding of the passage, I like to paraphrase in regular English. Then I go line by line highlighting-underlining anything I believe is important to the passage. I start by mapping out the rhythm of the lines, and then I start circling ”hidden” things like alliterations, assonances, repetitions, etc. or other writing techniques Shakespeare has used. This type of reading takes me a long time because I feel like Shakespeare’s writing has a lot of hidden elements that require more than just imagination and literacy. By the time I am done with the passage, there are circles, lines, arrows, and writing all over it. For some it may seem like there is an excess of writing on it, but like I previously mentioned, I’m a visual learner and all the writing helps me keep my ideas and thoughts organized.

Taking notes on a film is a very different experience for me. Like most people, when I watch a movie I want to enjoy it rather than take notes on it; but on the occasion that I have to write annotations I start by reading a synopsis of the movie so I know what the general plot is about. When it comes to Shakespeare storylines in films, I like to understand how the characters are connected to each other; this helps to understand the plot. I tend to pay too much attention to the film and forget to write notes, so I make “mental notes” about scenes that I believe are important. The music in the movie helps me determine which scenes are more important than others because music guides our emotions. After I watch the movie and I have a good understanding of the plot, I can go back and find a specific scene and pause/rewind it if I need to analyze it a bit more.

If I ever need to compare a play-text and a film of the play, I always start by annotating the play-text first and then I will watch the movie. By annotating the play-text first, I am able to dissect the meaning of the texts while imagining the story line in my head. I believe that’s what helps me decipher the differences the director makes in the film because I have already created “a film” of my own in my head and if it doesn’t match up then the differences stick out to me.

I know my annotations have been successful if I can paraphrase the play-text/film to another person, or if I can have an in-depth discussion about the play-text/film. I believe more times out of none, my play-text annotations are more successful because I have the ability to reread and “marinate” my brain in the words that are right in front of me, which give me the liberty to go at my own pace. Film annotations are more difficult because the pace of the story-line is much faster and frequently pausing the film can take away from the experience the director intended his audience to have.

Kirsten Cordingley: Notes Reflection

When annotating a play-text, we are able to focus on a specific line, phrase, or word before heading to the next, while when taking notes for a film, we are writing about a moment that is already passing. That is, unless we choose to frequently pause the movie. In this way, note taking for texts and movies requires a break amidst the action, but I personally find that annotating texts is less jarring than pausing films to take notes.

While watching films for this class, I start with a focus on the characters. Since films interpret Shakespeare’s text differently, often the actors and actresses will not portray a Shakespearean character as I imagined them when reading the text. I will often open up a different tab on my laptop with the cast list, so that I know who’s who in the film, which is especially helpful if I’m not very familiar with the text. As the plot unfolds, I will make character charts to show how people relate to each other. For example, drawing arrows and hearts to indicate who is in love and who is related.

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I note differences in the film in relation to the text, and often have the play opened, whether in book form or online, while watching. Considering what the director changes or highlights helps to understand the message or moments they try to emphasize. For example, in Throne of Blood there is only one witch character, rather than the three Weird Sisters that are in Shakespeare’s Macbeth. However, while I do take note of Shakespeare’s text when watching films adapted from his plays, I also stay aware that these films are fullsizerender-2an independent and unique creation. I pay attention to camera angles, editing, music, and acting. While doing my film review, I made notes along the way regarding anything that stuck out to me regarding these elements. For example, I took note of the music and animation choices used with the character Prospero in Taymor’s The Tempest.

When annotating play-texts, I find it helpful to summarize the footnotes in the margins beside the word or lines it applies to. This way I can reread the lines without having to look down at the footnotes. I underline things that stand out to me as important, and put question marks beside things that I don’t fully understand, often to bring them up to a classmate or professor later on. I also put a star beside passages or lines if I believe them to be significant in meaning, or applicable to a particular argument or analysis I am forming in an assignment or essay. I add notes in the margins to summarize events or explain things like symbolism. If I am close reading a passage for a paper, I will go through the passage after having read it a few times already and count the syllables in each line to see whether there is any significance in the line length. For example, in my close reading paper of the Chorus that opens Act 4 in Henry V, I noticed that Shakespeare strays from iambic pentameter in a particular line, which helped me to note his emphasis on a certain point. Similarly, I will go through and look at the ends of each line for any sort of rhyming, because often words are rhymed to point the readers attention to a particular detail.

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The main problem I have when watching a film or reading a text for class is getting too engrossed in the story and forgetting to annotate or make notes. In this case, to ensure that I am successful with helping myself with assignments, or future exams, I have to go back and slowly read or watch while annotating. I heavily connect how well I comprehend the text or movie to how successful my annotating and note taking were. If I have a well-formed discussion about the movie or play, or write a well-formed paper, then I know I have succeeded in taking concise and helpful notes. Whereas, if I feel I did not understand the text or movie, or have trouble picking out any meaning, I know I have to go back and annotate and note take more, paying attention to things that I didn’t the first time.

Tekla McIlhargey: Film Review

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I was immediately intrigued by the opening scene of Trevor Nunn’s Twelfth Night or What You Will when we were shown a clip in class and so it was an easy decision to write my film review on this specific film.  I found that with the breathtaking location choices to the purposeful use of light and dark I was drawn into the film and the story yet not overwhelmed by one particular film technique.  A compelling choice of Shakespeare’s original text was used and unfamiliar words were swapped for specific words more understandable for modern audience.  I found this technique would likely be useful in allowing a wider audience to enjoy one of Shakespeare’s best (in my opinion) comedic romances.

In act one, scene five, when Viola disguised as Cesario and Olivia meet for the first time, Viola is brought into a dark room where it is hard to see much of anything.  There is no sound except for the soft clicking of a clock.  This choice of natural lighting and lack of music work well with Violas initial confusion and consistent request for confirmation that Olivia is indeed the lady of the house.  As the text between Viola and Olivia becomes more personal, we see a pique in Olivia’s interest through close camera shots of her big expressive eyes and we see Viola thrust open the curtains to blind Olivia with light. We see the two end the visit on an intimate note out in the garden with Viola yelling “Olivia!” bolding and much to Olivia’s pleasant surprise, seen through an up close shot of Olivia’s expression.  They are fully in the light of the sun. Olivia has moved from a dark sorrowful place to a light loving place, both personally and visually.

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In act two, scene four, we find Viola, Orsino and Feste alone in a small, dark lit cabin.  This is not similar to Shakespeare’s original text as there is a larger group written in the original, however, the dialogue between the characters is similar and Feste’s song is identical.  Once again, I found the choice of natural lighting worked well with the scene, it is intimate and allows for the audience to behold a very close and seductive relationship between Viola and Orsino.  As Feste is singing the camera breaks between short shots of Feste singing and longer, slower shots of Viola and Orsino moving their heads closer to one other and almost kissing.  The darkness and natural lighting, the low, soft music and slow camera movements makes for a very intimate scene.

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The final scene of the play is act five, scene one.   Although this is not the last scene of the movie, it is, in my opinion, the most tense.  We watch quick shots as the quarrel and confusion escalade between the characters.  The look of confusion on Olivia’s face when she first welcomes Viola and Orsino to her home is a choice by actress Helena Bonham Carter to show her confusion as to why her ‘husband’ has arrived with Orsino and seems just fine with Orsino’s expression of adoration without her having to say a word.  The scene continues through quick up close shots and longer wide angle shots while we watch the cast and the emotion grow.  The perplexity and then clarity on the actors faces brings the audience to the climax as we watch the slow lingering shot of Olivia and her words, straight from Shakespeare’s text, “most wonderful”.

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The use of music, scene location and natural lighting, as well as the choice exerts from Shakespeare’s original text created an intense build up and finale that was exactly what the audience would have been waiting for.  As the film closes there is sequence of long shots with the characters dispersing towards their futures and Feste dancing merrily away singing; as an audience it feels we have been given a fair and comfortable ending.

 

Samuel Martyn: Film Review

Kenneth Branagh’s Henry V (1989) is an adaptation of William Shakespeare’s play of the same name. I feel as though the film, through methods unavailable in a theatrical performance, was able to produce more subtleties and evoke emotion that a live stage performance would not be able to. These factors, I believe make the film not only an effective interpretation of the text, but also a more palatable version at that.

I found the way in which the Chorus (played by Derek Jacobi) is presented in this adaptation is very intriguing, particularly in the prologue. The Chorus – no doubt through the text itself – is supposed to break the fourth wall, but the prologue is removed completely from the world that the narrative takes place within. This first scene is placed on a movie set, with cameras and other equipment in full view of the audience, so as to give the impression that the Chorus is, while later appearing in the actual scenes of the narrative, a type of modern-day tour guide through the jungle that is medieval Europe. henry-v-prologue

The Chorus is also seen wearing modern clothes, while all the other players are seen to be wearing clothes appropriate to the medieval period of the narrative. This helps once again show the Chorus as a separate entity, our tour guide through the film. It seems as though Branagh has the Chorus conducting a type of documentary, which to me appears quite unique in a beneficial way, as it gives a sense of realness to the history.

Act 1 Scene 1 as it is performed in the film, allows the audience to experience the dialogue between the two Bishops in a way that a stage performance in a theatre could not. The shadowy lighting and the camera angles allow for close up and extreme close up shots to give a feeling of intimacy in the conversation between the two men. It allows for us to see the expressions of scheming and secrecy on the faces of the Bishops. henry-v-act-1-scene-1

This scene however not only allows the audience to feel these effects through camera angles, but through the dialogue itself as well. The two Bishops through this scene speak very quietly, sometimes even whispering. This effectively creates a feeling that this conversation is surreptitious in nature. In a theatre environment, these techniques would not be able to be employed, and I believe that their use in this film are effective and beneficial in the portrayal of Shakespeare’s text.

Another factor that helps drive along the narrative within the film is Branagh’s use of flashbacks to Henry V’s past. One in particular is the flashback to a conversation between Sir John Falstaff (Robbie Coltrane) and Henry (Branagh) before he became king. “No, my good lord, banish Peto, banish Bardolph, banish Poins, but for sweet Jack Falstaff, kind Jack Falstaff, true Jack Falstaff, valiant Jack Falstaff, and therefore more valiant being, as he is old Jack Falstaff, banish not him thy Harry’s company, banish not him thy Harry’s company. Banish plump Jack, and banish all the world.” This dialogue appears nowhere in the original text of this play, but is drawn from Shakespeare’s Henry IV Part 1 (Act 2, Scene 4). These flashbacks, while from a different play, allow the audience to see into the past life of Henry, an effect that the original text does not necessarily provide. Branagh uses this as a tool to portray a conflicted Henry, who is turning his back on his former life. It also shows how his ascension to the position of king and the abandoning of his old friends affected them as well.

 

Branagh’s 1989 adaptation appears to be an effective, fluid, evocative interpretation of Shakespeare’s work. The film allows for an intimate view of the characters, as Branagh’s use of closeups and extreme closeups allow us to see more emotion and characteristics of the players, which is not an option in a theatrical performance. His use of the Chorus as a modern tour guide, leading us into and through the medieval period bridges a gap between our two eras, allowing us to see the film as a type of documentary. Finally, Branagh’s use of material from Henry IV Part 1 to show flashbacks to Henry’s past life allow the audience to see his emotional ties to those from his past and the conflict that arises not only within himself, but his old friends, which gives a more humanized, emotional interpretation of the text.