Into the Woods

Over the next couple of weeks, I will be showing the Disney film adaptation of “Into the Woods” in my classes. Today, I prepped one of those classes by discussing diegesis and narrative. It was perhaps a bit more technical of a discussion than they needed in a brief introduction to the film, but it permitted me to show some clips as points of comparison for their discussion posts throughout the week of the film. While I suspect that most will write about the fairy tale material we have been reading, I am holding out some hope that a few will address diegesis, desire, the Petrarchan paradoxes of love-sickness, or the role of point of view in adaptations. If not, at least we had a chance to enjoy and discuss a few scenes heading into the midterm break.

The first clip presents a song that we will also hear in the film version. Not only did the clip reveal to us some of the technical problems we might have in one classroom (The speakers in that room are awful!), it also permitted us to summarize some of the plot we will see in the movie. Most of all, I wanted to emphasize the importance of attending to the language and imagery of the songs. We will, after all, be watching a musical.

The second clip shows a song that is not available in the film. I initially wanted to present it because the students prepared a story of Rapunzel and Neil Gaiman’s “Snow, Glass, Apples.” I had intended to used the clip simply as a way to get into our discussion of the readings. But it is such a terrific and funny performance that we spent a bit more time with it than I probably should have. At any rate, it served well to help us think about point of view and to return once more to these paradoxical lovers and the desire that desires to desire.

The final clip was not planned, but I think it helped to demonstrate how diegesis can work in film. (There are probably better examples, and I probably could have better used the five minutes of class time, but I simply couldn’t resist showing it once the discussion led there.) The scene is from the Disney film “Enchanted” and shows a number of ways to think about diegetical music (Giselle’s singing, the musical accompaniment, the dancing, and the way it advances plot and characterization). These elements are, of course, highlighted by the ironic self-awareness of Patrick Dempsey’s character, Robert.

We only discussed the clip for a bit, but its repetition of “That’s how you know” proved additionally useful. It led wonderfully into a reminder about being explicit in using claims and evidence, not to assume that the reader “just knows” – as Robert so cluelessly claims at the start of this scene.  Having returned to the topic of their midterm essay, which is where the class began, we dismissed for the day, and now all I want to do is listen to some musicals on the commute home.

Cue “Hamilton”….

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