How to Watch a Movie: Pinewood’s Film as Literature Class

Michael Shtrom, Copy Editor

   Most Pinewood students imagine literature class as a time when they pour over pages of books, analyzing the deeper significance of commas, phrases, or stanzas. However, for students of the Film as Literature class, this is not the case. Instead, they watch movies and discuss the motifs, storytelling techniques, and themes in them.

   “This class looks at film studies from a literary perspective,” teacher Michelle Gannon said. “How is the character arc being developed? How are camera angles, setting choices, and costumes augmenting our understanding of the character?”

   Gannon’s background as an art teacher and an English teacher inspired her to start this class.

   “My undergraduate degree is in Art and Archaeology, but my graduate work is in teaching,” Gannon said. “I bridge both worlds and I feel as if this class is just such a beautiful amalgamation of those two things. So I pitched the class to [Head of School Scott Riches] and he loved it.”

   Gannon spends a lot of time deliberating over film selections for the class in order to give her students a wide array of perspectives.

   “There’s so many good [films] out there,” Gannon said. “Obviously, I want my students to have an understanding of [director Alfred] Hitchcock and some older films, but I also want my students to understand some foreign films.”

   Sophomore Caroline Blotter particularly appreciated the class’s examination of foreign films. 

   “[My favorite film was] probably Parasite because of the shocking ending and because it uses so many different techniques in such subtle and effective ways,” Blotter said.

   Outside of the classroom, Gannon feels that artistic and creative films are declining in popularity, but she believes that there is still hope for independent cinema. 

“I would say that we are in danger of having a very cookie-cutter approach to making movies, especially blockbuster movies,” Gannon said. “However, with the advent of all these unusual ways of getting your film out there, these films are exploring unusual storytelling techniques because they have the platform to do it.”

   According to Blotter, learning about these storytelling techniques and being able to apply them to the media she enjoys is exactly why she loves Film as Literature.

   “I love that I can watch the movies and utilize the skills that we’ve learned to watch movies in a whole different way,” Blotter said.