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Show and Tell: Terminus (1961)
Introduction English (1) English (2) Art Music  
English (2)
image from Terminus (1961)
Author Poppy Simpson, BFI
ThemesCharacter, perspective, translating moving images to text

Watch the opening sequence of the film. As the camera pans across the magnificent glass roof of Waterloo station and a bee-keeper pulls out a section of the hive, ask students what they think the film is about. As the class listens to the various ideas, ask individual students to explain what factors influenced their choices. After the students have watched the film, or a portion of it, re-visit some of their ideas. Are they surprised by the film's content? Or perhaps they came up with some similar suggestions?

The film offers an interesting opportunity to give the various characters it portrays a voice. As pupils watch the film through, ask them to pick one character that they are particularly interested in - for example, one of the honeymooners, the bee-keeper on the station roof, the city gentleman buying his daily lapel rose. Ask students to write one sentence in the first person, describing the feelings or thoughts of their chosen character at a particular point in the film. Listen to students' ideas as a class - can they guess which character is speaking? Have students had similar or different ideas about the various characters' emotions?

This exercise could be developed in a number of different ways. Working in pairs, students could explore a particular scene from two different perspectives. For example - focusing on the scene in which the prisoners are transferred - ask students to take on the role of either a guard or prisoner as part of a hot-seating or writing activity, with students describing the scene in the first person. Alternatively, ask students to write a diary entry for one of the characters - perhaps the young boy who loses his mother or the destitute old lady who appears periodically.

Terminus could also be used to support a different sort of writing activity. Why not try a simple translation of scenes in the film. Can pupils 'translate' what is happening on the screen into a print genre, such as an extract from a novel, a poem, a newspaper item etc? There are lots of interesting issues to be explored here - what can you tell in print that you cannot show or tell in moving images? What are the limitations of print compared to film? Or perhaps your students would like to add a scene to the film - translating their written ideas into a script that describes the action, including details about the camera position, shot composition and soundtrack.

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