Culture & Symbolism in Film & TV

For students of 9th to 9th grade.

Lesson Plan Further Studies in Arts Curriculum
Learning Area: Media Art – Film and TV
Year 9
Duration: 1 x 55 min lesson
Prior knowledge:
General ability to read cultural identifiers, and basic understanding of filmmaking techniques – Shot types, Staging, Mise-en-scene.
Overview statement:
Students are to analyse and explore cultural representation in the films Metropolis (1927) and The Breakfast Club (1985)
General Objectives for Lesson:
Students to begin analysing representations of culture and conflict with reference to the Metropolis original theatrical release trailer and The Breakfast Club opening sequence (from DVD).
In groups, identify the setting (culture) of the story by answering a worksheet.
Begin to understand the elements of the story that are the main source of conflict in the plot.
Better general understanding of how filmmaking techniques contribute to creating a story though conflict and cultural representations.
ACARA content descriptions:
ACAMAR078 - Evaluate how technical and symbolic elements are manipulated in media artworks to create and challenge representations framed by media conventions, social beliefs and values for a range of audiences
ACAMAR079 - Analyse a range of media artworks from contemporary and past times to explore differing viewpoints and enrich their media arts making, starting with Australian media artworks, including media artworks of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, and international media artworks

ACARA General Capabilities:
Critical and Creative Thinking – Students are to interpret the artistic choices made in Metropolis and assess whether they are relevant to culture and if so, how they represent the culture portrayed in the film.
Literacy – Students are to respond to the material with language in worksheets. Film specific literacy will also continue to develop.
Ethical Understanding – Students will analyse the ethical questions of the material.
Personal and Social Capability – Students will work productively in groups. Working in complimentary groups is a major focus in the Film and TV class.
Intercultural Understanding – Students will learn background knowledge of Russian Society in the period after the Russian revolution.

Teaching Points – 55 minute lesson

Introduce Topic/Aim of the lesson: 8 mins
The class will be looking at how we can go about understanding the hidden/symbolic meaning (meaning that is not spoken about) when we view film or TV sequences.
Power Point presentation to introduce key terms – symbolism & culture. Assess student levels of understanding for symbolism and culture. Students to share ways we can use film techniques to create symbolic meanings such as Sense of power, Chaos, Dreaminess, loss of freedom etc.
We will be looking at The Breakfast Club and Metropolis.

Play video – Opening sequence from The Breakfast Club: 4 mins
What can we learn about the cultural setting of the film from the Directors filmmaking decisions?

Class Discussion to progressively deconstruct the symbolism of the sequence: 10 mins.
The teacher will lead the discussion and draw focus back to filmmaking language such as staging, mise-en-scene, voice over, jump cuts etc.
Conceptual Points to be understood – Character Identities, Mise-en-scene contributions to meaning, Cultural differences.

Group Discussion for intercultural understanding: 5 mins
Students are asked which character they identify with the most and they are split into groups with people who chose the same character. What positive characteristics do they associate with this character? Is it easy to make these associations?
Important concept to understand – Archetypes.

Introduction to the trailer for Metropolis: 3 mins
Provide a background of Russian society in the 1920's. Direct students to pay attention to or take notes on – Identifying the main forces/characters to the story, How does the filmmaker use techniques to get this message across to the audience? How would you describe the culture of the society portrayed in Metropolis?

View Metropolis trailer: 5 mins

Group Discussion to deconstruct the trailer with reference to the worksheet provided by the teacher: 10 mins
Same groups as the last exercise. Worksheets with conceptual prompts will be provided (1 for each group) and handed up to teacher for formative assessment. During working time ask student's to consider why Fritz Lang (Metropolis director) chose to make this film. Is this film interacting with Russian culture? How is it? Why is it?

Class discussion to share understanding of the trailer: 7 mins
Teacher to prompt individual groups to share. Write concepts on the whiteboard as they come up. Gradually form a consensual understanding of the trailer. Draw concepts of the trailer back to the historical background of Russia in the 1920's after the Communist Revolution. 

Summarise the lesson: 3 mins
Key concepts for the lesson – Culture is constructed on screen, A film can have conflicting cultures/societies, Importance of mise-en-scene in constructing cultural meaning, Fritz Lang commented on the injustice of pre-communist Russia and his opinion is that the working class needed to take back their freedoms from their oppressors.

The Breakfast Club DVD
Metropolis trailer
Computer and Projector
Metropolis analysis worksheets
Whiteboard and Markers

Contingency Plan
Students can view more videos of Metropolis on youtube and discuss the cultural concepts in these also.
Students could stage a tableau using available furniture and class members to depict the oppression of the working class by the ruling elite similar to what we see in Metropolis