I can’t take it any more!
This video lesson is based around a clip from a 1993 film called Falling Down. The movie stars Michael Douglas in the role of a stressed-out unemployed engineer who embarks on a violent Odyssey across Los Angeles after finally cracking when stuck in rush hour traffic. The film begins as he abandons both his car and the conventions he has followed all his life, and sets off to attend the birthday party of his daughter, who lives with his estranged wife. However, his journey becomes increasingly violent as he begins to treat everyday urban frustration as unacceptable injustice and humiliation, of which he must avenge himself. The scene in this lesson takes place in a fast food restaurant, where he is refused breakfast because he happens to be a couple of minutes too late. The lesson is aimed at Upper-Intermediate to Advanced students and is accompanied by a conversation worksheet.
Step One : Lead-in
- Show your students slide 1 of the following PowerPoint presentation and ask them to go through the questions with a partner or in small groups. Note : If you think your students will remember the plot of the film, use slide 3 in which Michael Douglas’s face is hidden.
- Now show them slide 2. Give them time to read the blurb and then tell them a little about the film yourself (story of ordinary-man-in-the-street who snaps under the stress of urban life etc etc). There’s a good summary on Wikipedia.
Step Two : Video
- Show your students the fast food restaurant scene and ask them to take notes on the things that irritate Michael Douglas’s character.
- On subsequent viewings I did a bit of intensive listening by stopping and starting the video and asking the students to identify exactly what was said.
Step Three : Conversation
Ask your students to discuss the following questions in pairs or small groups.
Optional extra listening or hwk
If your students are interested in delving a bit further into the possible sociological/political interpretations of the film, they might like to watch this interview (Conversations in the Arts and Humanities with John C Tibbets) with Michael Douglas as extra listening practice or homework.
Addendum : 21/09/11
Willy Cardoso (@willycard) has just kindly informed me of the Foo Fighters‘ parody of Falling Down in their videoclip Walk. If you want to do something with the lyrics, you’ll find them here. Thanks, Willy!