The Theme of Nostalgia: Film Analysis & Critical Viewing

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SWBAT determine how a common theme (nostalgia) emerges over the course of a film and is shaped by specific details, comparing its development to "The Great Gatsby."

Big Idea

“It's a feeling like nostalgia, keeps me turning back to you, and a feeling like nostalgia for the dreams that we once knew” – “Nostalgia” by MIRROR, featuring Dave Gahan

Introduction & Welcome (Back): It's National D.A.R.E. Day!

3 minutes

We open class with a welcome to National D.A.R.E. Day (actually fell on April 3rd, this year; previously it has fallen on April 7th), recognizing Drug Abuse Resistance Education, in which the students participated during middle school. With the look back, I ask students what they remember about D.A.R.E., and use this connection to set up our look "back" at nostalgia. 

As with all Daily Holidays, my objective is to build a sense of community and trust in the classroom as they students share their ideas and react to each other. The connection between students' lives and the film begins to explore for the theme of nostalgia appears in the film, and to prepare to analyze--in detail--its development and connection to "The Great Gatsby" (RL.9-10.2).

Unit Introduction: Why We Watch Midnight in Paris

"Midnight in Paris": Presenting Nostalgia in Video (Characterization Focus)

45 minutes

I open our look at "Midnight in Paris" by pointing out that in our initial look at nostalgia in our own lives (see the lesson, "American Dreams and Money Nightmares: Themes in 'The Great Gatsby'") and in "The Great Gatsby" focused on recapturing a moment we had lived. However, it is possible to be nostalgic for a time gone by, and that will guide our viewing of "Midnight in Paris."

I ask students what their impressions of nostalgia as a theme in literature are, asking them to explore how the theme is developed in "The Great Gatsby" and other literature they have read or viewed (RL.9-10.2), as well as their personal impressions of the theme. Students share their thoughts on nostalgia.

I introduce "Midnight in Paris," the film we will be addressing the next few days, giving students a reading from the film's website about the production. I ask students to identify how the concept of nostalgia seems to appear over the course of the reading (RI.9-10.2), both in the real life of director Woody Allen and the fictional character of Gil, and to predict what impact it may have on the film. 

As students watch the film, they are asked to consider the questions on the "Midnight in Paris" Viewing Guide they were handed as they entered the classroom.

We watch the opening montage of the film, from the Eiffel Tower at morning to the Eiffel Tower at night. I pause the video and share two film concepts with the students, establishing shot and montage. I explain to the students these establishing shots both establish setting and set the tone of the film; the opening sequence not only shows Paris' "touristy" landmarks (the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, etc.) but also the smaller details noticable by someone in love with the city (the traffic, the shops, the cafes, etc.). By understanding these terms, students will understand the setting and tone of the film (RL.9-10.4).

We continue the film, and I ask students to focus on question #3 on the viewing guide, looking closely at the characterization of Gil in the scenes we watch, and to prepare to discuss their reactions to how he develops, interacts with others, and develops the theme of nostalgia (RL.9-10.3)

After Gil enters the party in the 1920s, see Cole Porter on piano, and just before he meets Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald, we stop the video, I point out one additional film term for students to know: diegetic sound, as the music comes from within the scene, from Cole Porter's piano. Diegetic sound also contributes to student understanding of the setting (time period) and tone of the film, as the song is "Let's Fall in Love," and falling in love with the city, or with another person, is one of the themes in the film.

We wrap up with students sharing their impressions of Gil: impressions of Gil 1impressions of Gil 2impressions of Gil 3.

Students will view "Midnight in Paris" in order to continue our look at critical viewing for an entire film, providing the skills to think critically about visuals. Additionally, this will serve as a launching point for various non-fiction/informational texts, literary texts, and a small writing research project. 

I have traditionally used "Midnight in Paris" in my Honors English II classes as a way to highlight the popular perception of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway, to compare ad contrast these two authors with their portrayal in the A&E Biographies of each (which students watch in their entirety.) I chose to add "Midnight in Paris" to the English II/Grade 10 Sophomore curriculum as an independent unit in order to build on ideas we have already addressed: author's life, critical viewing, comparing and contrasting works, and the big theme of nostalgia. Additionally, as "To Kill a Mockingbird" is flashback, with Scout looking back to the summer that shaped her life, the concept will return with our study of that novel and its film adaptation as well. 

"Midnight in Paris." Dir. Woody Allen. Perf. Owen Wilson, Kathy Bates, Marion Cotillard, Tom Hiddleston, Allison Pill, Corey Stoll. Sony Classics. 2011. DVD. 


Two-Minute Warning: Wrap-Up & Reminders

2 minutes

With two minutes remaining, we wrap stop the video, and I remind students to pick up "To Kill a Mockingbird" for Friday, and work on the reflections for "Midnight in Paris." They are given a copy of "Hemingway Said What? A Cultural Cheat Sheet for 'Midnight in Paris'" and asked to read the article this evening, selecting one item to explore in greater detail (RI.9-10.7), analyzing how the subject is portrayed in the film, the article, and their own research, determining which details are emphasized in each account. Students will have the opportunity to prepare a brief research project and present information to the class in order to clarify the history and background that inspires F. Scott Fitzgerald and "Midnight in Paris" (W.9-10.7).