Four great works of fiction every student should watch
There are plenty of awesome things to watch out there, but I’ve put together some criteria for a few that can’t be missed. These are movies and shows that are particularly notable for their direction/writing/style, and would benefit from being watched by budding filmmakers on a multitude of levels (also, they’re just damn entertaining). Anyone who wants to create their own stories should check out these masterful displays.
Buffy The Vampire Slayer (TV episode) – ‘The Body’ S05E17
Part of the fun of Buffy is that even people who aren’t into supernatural shows can still find something in it to really love. If you’re a fan of filmmaking, you’ll probably be quite attracted to its ability to cast aside its base genre and make some of the most stylistically ambitious episodes in television history. Joss Whedon, the show’s creator, writes and directs ‘The Body’ in the hope of isolating the audience. There is no musical score, forcing us to deal with long bouts of silence where nothing and no one makes a sound – a departure for this notoriously talky show. He even lets a scene run a few seconds longer than necessary to emphasise the hopelessness of the characters. If there’s one thing any aspiring filmmaker can learn from this, it’s how to trap your audience with something they don’t want to face – but this time it’s no vampire.
Citizen Kane (film)
It’s hard not to put Orson Welles’ celebrated masterpiece on this list. The film is about the rise and fall of media tycoon Charles Foster Kane, and is a barely (and by that I mean not at all) veiled dig at William Randolph Hearst. Kane’s last word, ‘rosebud’, creates quite a storm for the characters in the film. I won’t spoil what it means here, but suffice to say that although you may not have seen the movie, you’ve definitely seen ‘rosebud’ referenced many times. The film is non-chronological and employs flashbacks rather liberally, which would have been revolutionary at the time. In my books, there is cinema before Citizen Kane, and there is cinema after it. Get on it to see the making of a legend.
Young Frankenstein (film)
The best parodies come from a place of genuine respect, affection and knowledge – all of which Mel Brooks has in spades in Young Frankenstein. Anyone looking to emulate their inspirations, but with their own unique twist, should see how the master of the spoof did it. If you know the plot of Frankenstein, then there’s no need to recount it here, since it’s more or less the same. Brooks is able to keep things satirical and light, clearly knowing his way around the universal horror film tropes, but also inserts surprising pathos into the movie. It’s parody done right because it embraces its source instead of belittling it.
Twin Peaks (series)
David Lynch treats his TV foray as an opportunity to explore almost every genre you can think of, from comedy, to drama, to horror. And dancing is actually a plot point. No, really, dancing is super necessary. Anyone who looks down on the television medium (which is hard to consider doing in this post-Breaking Bad world) should watch Agent Dale “damn good coffee” Cooper investigate the murder of homecoming queen Laura Palmer. The show was followed up by the prequel film Fire Walk With Me, which is either the most annoyingly obtuse thing ever made or a Lynchian masterstroke, depending on who you ask. (It’s a Lynchian masterstroke. I will fight you.)
Seeing how the masters did it will open up your mind to all new possibilities. Watch, young Padawan.
Ally is a uni student who is shockingly good at remembering facts no one cares about involving TV shows and films. She also writes a bit.