Having been coerced into lunch, that sort of meant that I had to attend the lecture immediately after lunch. It’s not a mandatory lecture; it’s part of a series on narrative and runs for two hours each week. These lectures tend to have a number of common elements. Today was a perfect example of one of these lectures.
As a class of approximately 30, “we” are ignorant bullies. Many people in the class intimidate and belittle whatever guest is lecturing that week by chatting loudly among themselves, browsing the internet on their laptops, texting friends with loud beeping sound effects, and reading the newspaper. None of this is exaggeration. If something is found to be funny, guffaws will linger for minutes, in the guest’s expense. The guest, in turn, will ask incredibly vague questions and become a little frustrated when they are not answered. If they are answered, the answers will be astoundingly clueless for postgraduate students (or Primary Fours).
The guest lecturer today was useful and interesting, and was talking mainly about imagery. She’s a BAFTA-winner and the afternoon was sprinkled with a few stories of working with Oscar-winners or legends, my favourite of which was about her learning how Billy Elliot was written. Apparently it took four years to write. In three of those years Billy had a mother or a father, and the film seemed to be about two parents lamenting their child’s problems. Someone suggested they kill off the mother. Suddenly the father had nobody to talk to, and the film felt complete, and was made, and was successful.
Anyway, the main “stupid class” moment of today was when the lecturer started talking about props, and somebody asked “what are props?”. The lecturer instructed anyone who didn’t know what props were to put their hands up. Another hand went up. And another.
Postgraduate MA students.
An hour was devoted to showing us props on film. One film was Iranian, featuring a boy who wants a goldfish. The lecturer is a fan of Iranian cinema, and asked “are any of you Iranian?”. At least two people had to poke a man on the front row to remind him that, yes, he is Iranian. The lecturer said “so, in Iran you have nine things at New Year, one of which is a goldfish”. He said “no, it’s seven things, and none of them have to be a goldfish”. Anyway, the film was about an Iranian boy who wanted a goldfish. Two other short films to demonstrate the use of props were also shown, and they’re brilliant. Watch them:
When that was said and done, the lecturer spoke of an example in which baby twins could be used as props, and encouraged a brainstorming session. “What could happen to twins?” The obvious suggestions were given – separate them, conjoin them, make them opposites, and so on. Then an enormous bald Austrian stated: “kill them”. Everyone bounced off this suggestion. “Drown them”, “smother them”, “dangle them out of a window”. The lecturer, valiantly trying to move us on, said that yes, but what else? What else could you do with twins. “Decapitate them?” came another suggestion.
Then the Austrian man went off to find a marker pen, and didn’t come back for half an hour.
In the meantime, the lecturer put on a clip of the film Witness to demonstrate the use of props. Given that there wasn’t long left of the lecture, she left it on so we could watch Harrison Ford and Viggo Mortenson frolicking around and building a barn. This was a good end to the lecture.