Film as Literature: Coming to a Classroom Near You

By: Max Brown

Although no class is seemingly normal this school year, Mr. Madison is on the cutting edge in creating a class that engages students and creates for extraordinary discussions in the classroom over a subject that all students can get excited about: movies. In its debut year, Mr. Madison’s Film as Literature class is a big hit among East students. 

As a long time lover of film, Mr. Madison wanted to create a class that will “treat movies how you treat other great arts; the way we’re taught to treat novels and poems.” Instead of creating a class for English students that want to substitute literature with film for an easier grade, Madison implores his pupils to look for deeper meanings inside every shot, “Telling a story visually is very important” he explained. In the first quarter, students view silent films from directing greats Buster Keaton and Alfred Hitchcock. Even though these movies seem outdated compared to modern films, where CGI and editing create for spectacular special effects, Mr. Madison shows students how the early days of film were just as accomplished in creating jaw-dropping scenes that can still catch the eye of modern viewers. 

The class asks students to question every shot in a film. From the setting to the emotions portrayed by the actors, every angle is dissected to find a deeper meaning. Homework consists of watching a wide variety of films. This quarter, Mr. Madison’s pupils were assigned a wide range of films, from Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining” to foreign film shorts like “Sing.” 

“When I was in college, I took every film class I could — which was only three –,” he said. “I wanted to create a film class that offered credit and was a good alternative to normal English classes.” Madison has no shortage of knowledge when it comes to films. A regular attendant of the Telluride Film Festival among others, he is dedicated to portraying film as an art form and not just as entertainment. 

When asked what his favorite movie of all time was, the answer was simple: “It’s called Shop Around the Corner. It’s the best romantic comedy, best Christmas movie, and the best film about work.” For those that weren’t instantly compelled by the advertisement for the class in one of last year’s Angels on Air episodes, Film as Literature is a new and refreshing look for those that are looking for English credit without the mundane task of analyzing books and literature. 

If there’s any doubt that Mr. Madison is a guru for all things film, he even included some of his must-see films– Buster Keaton films (which he describes as almost always a hit, especially “Sherlock Jr.”), “Rear Window,” “Parasite,” and “Get Out.”