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Show and Tell: Boy and Bicycle (1965)
Introduction English (1) English (2) Art Music  
English (1)
image from Boy and Bicycle (1965)
AuthorLaura Church
ThemesAuthorial voice, Perspective, Language

The use of language in Boy and Bicycle (1965) is particularly interesting. Focusing on any one sequence in the film, challenge students to transcribe a portion of the narration. What do they notice about the use of language? What punctuation have they employed in their transcription? How easy is it to find the beginning and end of a sentence? How does one thought flow into another? Once pupils have discussed their ideas, consider the effect of the voice-over on the tone and style of the film. Why do students think the narrator chose to use this 'stream of consciousness' voice-over?

You might want to extend this writing activity by exploring how one might adapt the voice-over into a more formal speaking style. Working in pairs, encourage students to expand the boy's thoughts into longer, grammatically 'correct' sentences. These could be read while the relevant scene is played (without sound). How does changing the style of the voice-over affect the tone of the film? How similar are students' adapted narrations? Do their interpretations of the boy's thoughts differ?

There's still more to do with the voice-over! The film is narrated from the boy's perspective and it is a highly personal one. Choosing a different scene or sequence (the sweet shop scene could be effective here), ask students to re-write the voice-over in the third person. They can use the existing narration to understand the boy's thoughts and feelings, but need to pay careful attention to his actions and movement and describe these as well. This activity could be adapted slightly so that students are focusing on a scene in which there is no narration. A simpler writing exercise might be a straightforward piece of 'translation'. Can students 'translate' the film into a piece of literary writing?

One final idea: we hear the voices of the boy's parents and the owner of the sweetshop, but, with the exception of the man on the beach, the boy interacts with no other human being. What is the effect of this absence of interactive dialogue? Can students imagine an exchange between the boy and his mother?

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