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KS3 English: Fallen Idol, The (1948)

Use this extract as the basis for a simple film to writing 'translation'

Main image of KS3 English: Fallen Idol, The (1948)
AuthorPoppy Simpson, BFI
TopicImaginative writing
Key WordsSuspense, thriller, dramatic tension

A magnificent film from Carol Reed, in which the young son of a foreign ambassador becomes convinced that his best friend, the family butler, has murdered his wife.

The Fallen Idol is not only a masterful thriller but a nuanced portrait of a young boy making the unsettling transition from childhood into adolescence.

Much of the film is seen from the young protagonist, Felipe's perspective. However, following the death around which the action is focused, the audience is privy to scenes that Felipe is not - emphasising the distance between his understanding and that of the adult world. As such, the film has enormous potential for both the English and Citizenship classroom.

This starter idea uses the extract Reluctant witness in which Felipe wrongly believes he has witnessed a murder. The starter asks students to do a simple 'translation' from screen to page, as the starting point for a longer piece of writing. This activity would fit well in a longer unit of work focusing on reading for meaning and writing with a particular purpose and audience in mind.



Watch through the five minute extract, Reluctant witness without any introduction. Ask students to note down any adjectives that they associate with the action or the behaviour of any of the characters.

After watching the extract, lead a short discussion exploring what happened in the clip and how the filmmaker used framing, perspective, music etc. to create a sense of tension.

Challenge students to translate a scene or couple of scenes of their choice from the extract (ie. Felipe being woken by Mrs Baines, Felipe running barefoot through London). Encourage students to think about how they will use language to create a sense of unease and tension. What information will they include - ie. will they describe the hallway and staircase in detail, or focus on the inner emotions of the boy? Whose perspective will they write from?

Allow students five minutes to write their short piece and hear a selection from the class.

Wrap this up with a quick discussion about the different ways in which writers and filmmakers create tension, using students' work as examples.


Some more ideas

  • The extract ends with Felipe running into a policeman. Can students improvise what he might say?
Video Clips
1. A reluctant witness (5:10)
2. The investigation (3:53)
3. The truth (4:57)

Related Films and TV programmes

Thumbnail image of Fallen Idol, The (1948)Fallen Idol, The (1948)

Read more about this film

See also

Thumbnail image of Children on FilmChildren on Film

The adult world through a child's eyes