Contemporary Dramas and the Nouvelle Vague for A Level French students

Whole School

On Thursday 7 December A Level French students had the opportunity to attend a workshop on French cinema at the British Film Institute (BFI).

The workshop was engaging and informative; we were provided with booklets in which there were activities to be done as the workshop progressed. The workshop focused on “la nouvelle vague” the new wave, a term for French filmmakers of the late 1950s and 1960s. These filmmakers were revolutionary, in that they changed the way stories were told in films. Instead of having grand, heroic but unrealistic films with exaggerated plots known as “le cinéma de papa,” films that were part of la nouvelle vague were about ordinary lives and realistic events, often including biographic aspects.

The majority of the workshop took place in French, and we were encouraged to express our opinions and thoughts in French while discussing the different films. In the first half of the workshop la nouvelle vague was introduced and explained to us; we then watched short extracts of films such as ‘Cléo de 5 à 7’ and ‘La Haine’ and discussed them, making notes in our booklets and comparing the films. We were also asked many questions such as why the writers chose to change the film from colour to black and white at a certain point, or what themes are shown in the film. In the second half we watched a full film, ‘Les 400 Coups’ by François Truffaut. Les 400 Coups is part of la nouvelle vague and was largely based on real events that occurred in Truffaut’s life. It was interesting to see how elements from la nouvelle vague were present in the film and how we were now able to recognise these elements. It was a thoroughly enjoyable and useful experience that has benefitted all of us, and it will certainly help us in our studies.

Jemma Tait, Year 12

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