This module constitutes yet another field of investigation for students. It allows them to see how films, when transposed, might carry along with them implicit cultural values and messages. Analyzing films allows students to deal with issues unreachable through text only, such as the different ways in which humor, suspense, oral discourse or body language can be interpreted in very different ways.
There are many American remakes of foreign films. The following is a very short list (an internet search will yield many more titles).
Chinese: Eat Drink Man Woman and Tortilla Soup; French: Trois Hommes et un Couffin and Three Men and a Baby; German: Wings of Desire and City of Angels; Italian: Profumo di donna and Scent of a Woman; Japanese: Dansu Wo Shimaho and Shall We Dance?; Korean: Il Mare and The Lake House; Spanish: Nueve Reinas and Criminal.
Whichever films you choose, we suggest that the analysis take place in two steps and that two weeks be devoted to the study of the films. The first week, you and your class will conduct a global analysis of the differences between both films. The second week, you and your class will compare the films scene by scene, which will allow for a more in-depth analysis.
In order to do the fim module, you will need to:
Obtain both versions of the films you are comparing.
Schedule showings of both films. You do not need to show both in one sitting but you might show them on two consecutive evenings, for example. Show the original film first, then show the remake.
Tell students that even if they have seen either or both films before, they must see them both again.
Prepare by gathering for your students:
Information on the films
The beginning and end points of the specific scenes to be analyzed
Excerpts from a number of film reviews of both films by critics from both cultures, providing students with cross-cultural perspectives
General information about original films from each country and their remakes, with a series of articles about remakes in general and a list of original films from the exchange partner's country or culture and their remakes
Global analysis and comparison of both films
Tell students they will analyze the differences on a global level. They can choose to focus on either the story or the characters.
For each of the topics they have selected, ask students to think about what elements have been added/eliminated/changed in the remake in relation to the original film. What is different and why? Tell your students to avoid value judgments such as the remake is funnier or the original is cheaply made.
Follow-up class activity
Have students form groups according to the topic they chose to investigate. If too many students have chosen the same topic, divide them into smaller groups, so that you don’t have more than 4 students in each group.
Have students share with each other the differences they noticed. Tell them to focus their remarks on the most important cultural differences they noticed, as opposed to merely providing a list of differences. This might lead students to discuss what they see as culturally relevant or not.
Have students share their remarks with the rest of the class.
Have students share their observations with their exchange partners on the forums.
Scene-by-scene comparative analysis of both films
In order to help your students do a quality analysis, you might want to work together with one scene in class. This will help students to avoid just making a list of differences, as opposed to making a real analysis.
Show the scenes from both versions one right after the other. Show the original version, then show the remade version. Tell students to try and take notes as they watch.
After you have viewed the scenes, have students form groups of 3 or 4 and discuss what differences they have observed. Give students approximately 10 minutes. Ask them to be sure to compare the remade version to the original, and not vice versa. Students should focus only on the parts they consider relevant, rather than on every single detail.
When groups are finished, ask them to tell you what differences they have observed. Write all of their observations on the board, without censoring any of them. This will likely be a long list.
Ask students to group items from the list according to different categories. For example, one category might be the way the characters in the remake look compared to the characters in the original (attire, hairstyle, demeanor). Another category might be the general attitudes of the characters in each version toward each other. Write students' responses on the board, adding any categories they may have missed.
Ask students to look at the different categories and come up with some observations. Put together, what do these differences reveal?
Some possible answers: a much-“improved” character in the remake as compared to the original: better dressed, better looking, acting more responsibly.
The question then becomes: why? Why those changes, considering they were deliberate? Try to have your students come up with some explanations: a much broader audience targeted by the remake, an emphasis on the preservation of some basic cultural values, etc.
Finally, ask students whether they see parallels in the way the characters in the films are portrayed and what they have observed so far through the questionnaires, the forums, the opinion polls, and other class activities.
Encourage your students to come up with observations which will either confirm or contradict what they have thought so far.
Ask students to choose one of the scenes you have selected and to form groups to analyze the scene. Ideally, there should be no more than three or four students to each group. Give each group of students copies of the scenes they will be analyzing.
Tell the groups to prepare an oral presentation for the class. Remind students that analyzing does not mean simply enumerating the differences and making subjective comparisons. Rather, they should create broad categories of differences within which they will list examples and illustrations.
Follow-up class activity.
Each group of students will play both scenes for the class. It is important to replay the scenes so that the other students do not have to rely only on memory and can better participate in the discussion afterwards. Have each group deliver their oral presentation, followed by a class discussion. Ask students to share their observations with their exchange partners on the forums.