At Christmas we have decorations, Christmas cards and a lot of food ! Have the students study the photo for one minute, then turn off the projector and ask them to write down all the food they can remember.
Best of all, in my opinion, is the Christmas pudding:
We have a Christmas tree. The tree is decorated with lights and bells and also there are presents on the floor around the tree. In the west, at the top of the tree, traditionally there is an angel.
How about Christmas in other countries ? This is Germany at Christmas
From Sweden, the children’s story Pettson och Findus by Sven Nordqvist
Make a Christmas card for one of your classmates (or teacher hahaha)
Need: paper / crayons / scissors / glue sticks / colour pens or felt-tip pens
And now, for older students … ‘A Christmas Carol’. One of the most famous Christmas stories is by Charles Dickens, a short story about a miser, Ebenezer Scrooge, who is visited by three ghosts, after which he decides to change his life.
‘Shadow Sonata’ was my first film shot in London since the early 1990s, and how things have changed. I started with a Bell & Howell 8mm cine camera, splicing film by hand and playing back on a projector; now I was working on a pocket digital camera and cutting on computer.
The title is a reference to the short story collection ‘Shadows of a Sound’ by the Korean writer Hwang Sun-woo, an author mentioned in the Korean film ‘My Sassy Girl,’ and the book plays a key part in the film. The influence of Asia and Asian culture should be discernible throughout.
‘Shadow Sonata’ is a non-linear story of a man living in London, obsessed by an old love affair, while dreaming his way out of his depression. The topography of London helps the viewer place the action in the past, the present, and what could be the future, or pure imagination.
The Man starts by meeting his blonde girlfriend by an old museum in Walthamstow, north-east London. From the sunny exterior we move to the inside of his small London bedsit, decorated with Asian posters, and full of books by Asian writers.
He walks around London, alone, the city appearing grey, cold, emotionless. He keeps seeing a beautiful Asian lady and feels very attracted to her … if only he could meet her.
I shot this film over two days on my Samsung W200, a camera that cost me around 80 UKP. It lasted until 2017 when it just died on me but anyway, mobile phones now have better cameras (I currently use an iPhone 6s).
Furthermore, I was very lucky with the weather; I had bright sun for the flashback sequence and dull wet grey rain for the present.
The was for the old love affair was played on an instrument I encountered in Sweden, a nyckleharpa:
The dream or future sequence uses ‘Oriental’ from Granados’ ‘Spanish Dances’, while the melancholic ending is a late String Quartet by Beethoven. These small scale pieces fascinate me, especially considering they followed the epic 9th Symphony … but that is possibly a theme for another blog or film.
As always, thanks so much to the actors who gave their time for free:
Mr Martin O’Shea, Ms Michelene P. Heine, Mr Stephen Grey, Mr Alex Loveridge, Ms Angie and introducing Ms Emily Yue.
This film, finished in 2014, was shot in 2008 while I was living in Berlin and I attempted to give it a 1920s feel. It’s based on the famous novel by Hermann Hesse:
The novel, which was published in 1927, is a book within a book … a young man finds a diary written by an older man and it is this diary which forms the bulk of the story. As readers, we are free to choose how much to believe of the ‘diary’; is it all true, all fiction, a combination of truth, half-truths and wishes ?
The book certainly has a surreal quality to it, moving from realistic descriptions to a final sequence which seems to resemble a dream or fantasy.
The main character, Harry Haller, refers to himself as a steppenwolf, that is someone who craves human companionship yet is painfully introverted and uncomfortable around people. This dichotomy is central to the book.
For the film, I choose areas of Berlin that were more historic and evocative of the 1920s, as well as selecting some ‘modern’ classical composers who were contemporaneous (Martinu from Czech Republic, Hindemith from Germany), along with W.F. Bach (who is mentioned in the book). The film plays out with a melancholy solo guitar piece by the incredible gypsy-guitarist Django Rheinhardt.
I also used colour filters towards the end of the film, as in some silent classics, indicating that the sequences may or may not be ‘real’ … it is up to the viewer to decide.
The film style was heavily influenced by German expressionist cinema of the inter-war years, directors such as Fritz Lang, G.W. Pabst and mostly F.W. Murnau.
Mr Molnar Levente, a Hungarian actor, was in the highly successful ‘Son of Saul’ film, while Mr Martin O’Shea has appeared with Kenneth Branagh and Bill Nighy in the Tom Cruise film ‘Valkarie’.
Ms Willow de la Roche gave, I feel, an amazing performance. I’m so sorry it took so long for the film to finally be cut.
Technical details: I shot the film entirely on Super 8, then had to transfer onto a compatible disk for cutting on a Windows-based laptop. At the time I was moving between Berlin, London and Sweden and furthermore, I had to learn computer editing from scratch.
Board new words, then allow (or force) students to write them down and reuse throughout the lesson.
Sweden is home to many global companies including Spotify, H&M, IKEA, Volvo, and Skype was co-founded by a Swede. There are branches of H&M in HCM City, but Swedes need much warmer clothing:
The students, placed into two teams, can run to the board and write items of clothing, one team member, one word, then exchange the pen with another team-mate. They can also write other items, not shown in the picture. Bonus points for those who can give the most detailed descriptions e.g. she wears a lovely purple coat (at this level, the students just use present and past simple, no continuous verbs).
Next, what are these buildings and who works there ?
Moving onto IKEA. What items of furniture can the students identify ? Which would they like – they have to select what they would buy for their home. They may choose different colours:
The Swedes are famous for their healthy lifestyle. What makes people healthy ? Here, I encourage, or demand, sentences, not just single words shouted out. To make it more kinetic, I can select some students and give them an activity to mime, such as exercise, eating healthy food and getting enough sleep. The students can be asked what food is healthy ? This leads into the next and final section, Swedish food:
After this cultural trip to north Europe, it’s time to get back to spelling tests, unit work and bookwork.
Hopefully, the students will have learnt something about a different culture, a country where English is not the mother tongue, but is widely spoken, and taught from an early age. In face, many Swedish singers even sing in English; here’s an example: