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deconstructing texts; ways of reading


This week's lecture presupposes that you will already have watched both La Bête humaine and Un Héros très discret. It undertakes a theoretically and historically informed comparative reading of these two films.

Listen to the lecture:

Download slides from the lecture here.


Ahead of your seminar please prepare answers to the following questions (which you can download as a Word document here):

1. How pervasive do you think belief in progress is today? How important was it in France in the late 1930s and 1940s? Give reasons for your answer.

2. What more can you find out about the Third Republic and its values, particularly its belief in progress?

3. In addition to the seven-minute opening sequence of La Bête humaine – with the projected forward motion of the train away from the spectator and its contast (or undoing) in Lantier’s later return, on foot, down the train tracks towards the viewer – how else does La Bête humaine’s visual language both present and undermine the idea of progress? Identify and be ready to present other examples or pairs of examples from the film.

4. In light of the discussion in the lecture, identify and contrast examples of your own from both films of attempts to police class and gender identity. In La Bête humaine look particularly at the interaction between Cabûche and the juge d’instruction.

5. What can you find out about les femmes tondues? Keep a record of your research methods and be prepared to present and discuss both the results of your research and how you set about undertaking it.

6. Identify and discuss examples of acting or role-play in La Bête humaine.

7. Do you agree with Julian Jackson’s verdict that Audiard’s film is ‘cynical’? Give reasons for your answer.