Film review

Teachers are often looking for innovative resources, and films are a great way to engage students. Amy Cotton, Professional Officer IEUA NSW/ACT Branch, looks at two interesting releases.

In this Corner of the World – 2016
Kono Sekai no Katasumi ni
Director: Sunao Katabuchi

Teachers looking for a film that uses women’s narratives or addresses the cross curriculum priority of Asia have struck gold with this anime feature. In particular, it addresses the key concepts within the Asian priority, showcasing the achievements and contributions of the peoples of Asia and also their diversity, their interaction with the environment and the global implications of their experiences.

Anime is simultaneously one of the most thoughtful film art forms and the most casually used genres. However, when you can locate a high quality animation film such as this, you can rest assured that your students are viewing and analysing an artistic achievement ruminating on the human condition.

The film takes place over the decade preceding and just after the bombing of Hiroshima. Students will need to know about Hiroshima first, as the tension of the film is created in the countdown to impact. Although it is historical fiction, the incidents and images are drawn from the experience of those present during the dropping of the bomb.

What impressed me about this film is that it’s a narrative led and defined by female protagonists. The women, both young and old, and the intentions, action and wishes are the impetus that drive the narrative forward. The men, when present, are referenced but not necessarily influential. The characters all live in a world that is crumbling – confronted by the modernity and threat of a global war but still living a traditional lifestyle that defines place, experience and their interactions with the world.

The film is suitable for Stages 4, 5 and 6 depending on the context in which you teach. It depicts some gory war moments, and an abundance of grief, so student resilience is a must before you start.

Further viewing about the Japanese experience of WWII: Giovanni’s Island (2014, Director: Mizuho Nishikubo) looks at two young Japanese brothers’ experience as Russian troops land on Shikotan Island after World War II. Grave of the Fireflies (2005, Director: Isao Takahata) is about two siblings struggling to survive after the war. The Wind Rises (2013, Director: Hayao Miyazaki) is a biopic about Jiro Horikoshi, designer of the Mitsubishi A5M fighter aircraft.

Mother! – 2017
Director: Darren Aronofsky

This film is not for the faint-hearted. It is brutal, but like reading a challenging novel, this film will nourish your film-viewing soul, even if you don’t like it. It is a visual feast.

If it is used in a classroom, it’s a senior text only. The film lends itself to topics such as environmentalism, gender roles and creation stories.

Drawing heavily on the thriller genre, the audience is prepped throughout the film for the final horror sequence showdown by fantastically moody camera angles and long edits, a set that was both eerie and nostalgic and ambiguously threatening characters.

Every moment is a sensory overload of beauty, devastation and bewilderment. It’s like reading a great poem that forces the brain to exercise itself by accepting, rejecting and justifying meaning – a continual process of refining hypotheses and discarding them as new information comes to light.

Of course, this film isn’t for everyone. When I saw it at the cinema, a woman in the audience cried out, “Thank heck that’s over!” Whether you liked the film or not, it’s a fairly legitimate response to the end of the film. It is an ordeal at the end.

Other films along a similar theme: Pan’s Labyrinth (2006), Requiem for a Dream (2000) and Life of Pi (2012)