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Show and Tell: Short Vision (1956)
Introduction Music History Film & Media Studies English  
image from Short Vision (1956)

This film does contain some graphic imagery, so teachers are advised to watch it before using it in class.

A Short Vision offers a fantastic opportunity to explore the narrative techniques employed in different types of storytelling - not only in terms of different genres but also different media. It is an allegorical tale with deeply sinister undertones but its simple narration and striking imagery make it an accessible 'text' to unpack.

Why not start by asking students to listen to the opening section of the film, without allowing them to see the animation play on screen.

"One night, I looked out through the window and saw it approaching through the deep blind sky. Because it was so far away, it seemed very small at first, and because it was so big, it seemed to move slowly and because it was so powerful, it came swiftly, noiselessly, irresistibly. It came unnoticed, uninvited."

What do students think the film is about and what might they expect to see on screen? What in the narration has led them to these conclusions and how does the script create a sense of tension, mystery and unease?

The mysterious missile flies over the mountains and fields before arriving above the city. Remind students of fables that they have heard or studied, encouraging them to think about why writers often use the natural world and wild animals to illustrate their message. What is the significance of the fear that 'it' excites in the leopard and the owl? (It may be useful to give students explanation of context here - the nuclear paranoia of the Cold War era).

Alternatively, you could encourage students to investigate the differences between film and written texts through a simple 'translation' exercise. As 'it' hovers above the city, men, women and children sleep soundly, unaware of the danger in the sky. The narration is sparse and the animation depends on visual imagery to create a sense of vulnerability and unease. Can students take this sequence and re-create it in their own descriptive style?

Finally, what do students make of the end of the film? What is the significance of the moth perishing and the small flame dying out? Can students explain the message in their own words?