Gothic Nightmares: A class you don’t want to miss

By Eloise Willemsen ’11

Video by Fran Feldman ’11 and Kim Uggerholt ’12. The final class assignment was to create a gothic trailer.

This fall, Belle Struck introduced a new class at the Governor’s Academy. It is one of the few night classes we have and it was an amazing opportunity for a new look at movies as an art form. In this class we explored gothic movies, from the first version of Dracula in 1932 to a new movie entirely in Spanish called “Pan’s Labyrinth”. Throughout this class everyone had a chance to voice their opinion about the most recent movie we watched as well as about the gothic genre as a whole. Every Monday night the class met for two hours to talk about the movie we watched that week, we talked about everything from stereotypes in horror films to how special effects have evolved in the past century. It was a great way to understand how movies affect people in different ways and see how they react to different moments.

My personal favorite movie we watched was a Swedish film called “Let the Right One In”. It was a drama and horror tied into one and it was a great way to see how horror is viewed in other parts of the world. After discussing the movie we decided to go to a local movie theater and see the new American remake of the same movie. The contrast between the two was amazing and it was a wonderful chance to see how, although America is thought to have a very commercial movie industry, it can sometimes surprise you. Seeing both of these movies and comparing how they were made was something I would never have thought to do on my own but was a truly amazing experience. Ms. Struck has a wealth of knowledge about the world of gothic movies and this is a class I hope to take again.

Catching up with Belle Struck, Arts Teacher

The Governor’s Academy: What Movies are on the list this spring?

Belle Struck: The Spring focus is Aliens and Superheroes. I can’t give all the movies away – but they will be a mix of classics and contemporary films like: Alien, District 9, V for Vendetta and Big Fish.

TGA: How does the second session differ from the first?

BS: In the first session our discussion focused around “the outsider” and the idea of the monster or vampire representing an outcast or a misunderstood hero. We also explored the dark side of humanity and what makes us monstrous. The spring will focus more on the storytelling and what heroes mean for us, why we need them, how we create them and what the consequences of that are.

TGA: In general, what has the reaction been to this type of dialogue course?

BS: I can’t speak to reactions outside of the class – but the students were engaged and excited every Monday night. We often started class with one question and ended on something completely different. We all walked away jazzed from great conversation. I know I often learned as much as they did.

TGA: Why should students register?

BS: Movies and popular culture are our mythologies now. It is as important to explore these modern narratives critically as it is to read the classics. Storytelling is a powerful teacher, and I believe thoughtful conversation to be essential to critical thinking. Although at times it is a challenge to moderate heated and controversial discussions-I believe it is an integral part of educating and nurturing compassionate dissent and critical understanding. What I am basically saying is: it is a great class-we watch movies and talk about them!!!-I look forward to it every week-and my friends who teach at other schools are REALLY jealous of me-and keep asking if they can come audit the class!

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