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KS4 English: Great Expectations 5 (1946)

Imagining subtitles and special effects using the film without sound

Main image of KS4 English: Great Expectations 5 (1946)
AuthorJessica Hardiman
TopicGreat Expectations
Key Words Dickens, Victorian, Lean, pathetic fallacy, atmosphere, adaptation, script
Show full lesson spec

Magwitch escapes

A useful extract for sharpening students' critical analysis skills through their interpretation and practical application of dialogue, music and other sound.

This lesson idea uses an extract from the film, played to the students without sound, to engage their imagination about what the characters might be saying, the mood they think the director is trying to create, and the complementary music and sound effects. Students will realise the value of a multi-sensory experience, applicable in writing to describe and imagine for their original writing. Key skills in scripting are learned and applied.

Lesson Objective

  • To understand how a writer and director use dialogue and sound to create atmosphere, and to learn how to apply these in writing to imagine.


Show students several stills from the film, in order, and ask them to suggest what might be taking place in these stills, and what atmosphere they think the director might want to create. This could either be done as a whole class, spidergramming ideas in their book while looking at the stills on the interactive whiteboard, or the stills might be photocopied and annotated.

Ask the students to annotate what is happening, who is involved, where the scene is, what the time of day is, what the mood is, etc. (in short, to consider the scene from as many different angles as possible).

The students should feed back to the class individually, until everyone in the class has grasped that there is some connection between cinematography and acting and the mood/setting created for the audience.


Main Attraction

Show students the scene (Magwitch's escape) without sound. Ask the students to concentrate on trying to interpret what is happening in the scene.

Ask the students how this cinematography/acting can now be developed to involve the reader more deeply in the plot and mood. Can they suggest what Lean might have wanted to add to this scene? How, when we write scripts, can we be sure that the actors know in what setting they are placed, and how they should deliver their lines? These ideas should be recorded either in a spidergram or in bullet points (a good moment to revise note-taking skills).

This leads into a quick revision of how scripts are laid out, and what elements a script contains besides dialogue. (Refer to Shakespeare SATs if students are relatively new to studying plays.)

Ask the students to work in pairs. They should spend (approx) 10 minutes scripting the scene, with stage directions and punctuation the particular focuses. They should apply the evidence they can take from Lean's film (the actors' expressions, lighting, shots etc) to help them to imagine what is being said in this scene. While the students are working on this, play the clip on repeat, still silent, so that the students have continual access to the silent footage they are scripting.


End Credits

The students should read out short extracts from their script to one another. Using peer assessment, ask the students to comment on the features of one another's work they felt were effective, giving reasons. Ask students if they feel anything might be improved upon.

If time allows, show the students the clip with sound, and ask the students to compare critically the film version and the scripted alternatives produced by the class.


External Links

Video Clips
3. Magwitch's escape (3:56)
Downloadable Teaching Resources

Related Films and TV programmes

Thumbnail image of Great Expectations (1946)Great Expectations (1946)

Read more about this film

See also

Thumbnail image of KS4 English: Great Expectations (1946)KS4 English: Great Expectations (1946)

Comparing the film and novel's presentation of pathetic fallacy

Thumbnail image of KS4 English: Great Expectations 2 (1946)KS4 English: Great Expectations 2 (1946)

Exploring how Pip's imagination is brought to life on film

Thumbnail image of KS4 English: Great Expectations 3 (1946)KS4 English: Great Expectations 3 (1946)

Exploring the use of imagery to create dramatic tension

Thumbnail image of KS4 English: Great Expectations 4 (1946)KS4 English: Great Expectations 4 (1946)

Exploring Victorian class distinctions and Pip's snobbery in the film and novel

Thumbnail image of Dickens on FilmDickens on Film

The 19th Century literary giant has long been a favourite of filmmakers