Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
World War Two on Screen
Academic Year
Semester 1
Completion of Part 1
Other Staff

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Lecture 10 x 2 hour lectures/seminars
Other 10 x 3 hour viewings


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment 1 x 3,000 word Essay:  Apply a critical reading to one of the themes, comparing and contrasting different approaches and the historical contexts of both themes and film production.  60%
Semester Assessment 1 x seminar presentation (15 minutes):  Independent preparation of a topic, delivery of a mini-lecture, documented through a power-point presentation and a dossier of research notes  40%
Supplementary Assessment 1 x 3,000 word Essay (different topic)  Apply a critical reading to one of the themes and compare/contrast approaches  60%
Supplementary Assessment 1 x presentation (rescheduled):  independent study of a film not covered on the course, but topic-related and presented through a power-point presentation and a dossier of research notes.  40%

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:

1. Engage criticaly with films about World War II and apply these analytical skills to other films, and films about other wars or historical evets;
2. Understand how, through the medium of film, filmmakers may agree/disagree with the way in which war is viewed at a particular time and in a particular political cotext;
3. Assess how filmmakers may manipulate audience perceptions of historical events;
4. Analyze a film's narrative in a political and historical context;
5. Distinguish personal and political issues in the respresentation of war;
6. Prepare and present a seminar topic and lead a discussion


1. To develop thematic and generic frameworks for the treatment of history in cinema.

2. To bridge the disciplinary borders between the study of film and history.

3. To analyse he use of cinema to (re)-create hisorical facts and function as a tool for propaganda.

Brief description

The genre of the war film appears never to have lost its popularity. This module explores the representation of WWII in cinema, focusing on some landmark films. These films are studied under thematic headings in order to investigate changes in the treatment of WWII in recent years.


The module will cover four key themes, with the first week offering introductory lectures to the treatment of history on screen in general, and on some key episodes of WWII. The themes will be explored through two films each, offering scope for comparison. The last week will consist of revision classes, drawing together the different themes and looking across the four thematic blocks, for example:

Theme 1. The Soviet Experience: Suffering and Individual Loss
Films: Mikhail Kalatozov, The Cranes are Flying (1957) and Andrei Tarkovsky, Ivan's Childhood (1963). These films make a departure in the official Soviet discourse, showing the heroism of the Soviet soldier in securing the Victory. Khrushchev's "Thaw" forms the historical context for thid change in narratives.

Theme 2. Life in the Camps
Films: Roberto Benigni, life is Beautiful (1997) and Stefan Ruzowitzky, the Counterfeiters (2007). Both films are set in concentration camps and show everyday life in the camp in unusual ways, turning life into a spectacle.

Theme 3: Resistance
Films: Pal Verhoeven, Black Book (2006) and Sergei Loznitsa, In the Fog (2012) both deal with issues of resistance: of political resistance in the Netherlands; and of moral resistance in Belarussian territories occupied by the German army.

Theme 4: Rewriting History?
Films: Quentin Tarantino, Inglorious Basters (2009) and Andrej Wajda: Katyn (2007). Where Taratino rewrites the history of the German occupation in France in a parodic manner, Wajda returns historical facts about the massacre in Katyn.
The module investigaes the use of cinema to distort or adjust historical narratives, depending on politics and production circumstances.

Week 1: History on Screen: some theoretical approaches
Week 2: Heroism Revisited in Soviet Cinema of the Thaw
Week 3: War and Childhood: The Lost Future
Week 4: Life in the Camps: spectacle or reality?
Week 5: Life in the Camps: moral choices?
Week 6: The Resistance Movement
Week 7: The Issue of Moral Choice
Week 8: Historical Fact and Fiction
Week 9: Film as Historical Document
Week 10: Revision: common themes and different treatments of war

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Application of Number
Communication Students' written communication skills will be developed (e.g. appropriate language and style, accuracy, precision and ability to be concise). Opportunities will be given, through seminar sessions, for students to develop confidence in using their speaking and listening skills when communicating their ideas.
Improving own Learning and Performance Students will be able to develop their skills of information location and retrieval. Students will be given opportunities to develop note-taking skills. Students will develop their critical thinking skills. Through small group discussions and seminars students will be given opportunities to develop an awareness of the opinions of others and reconsider initial ideas if necessary.
Information Technology Students will be given the opportunity to develop their authorial and note-taking skills when planning for oral and written assignments. Students will be given opportunities to develop their skills using electronic search and retrieval of sources on the web and on libray catalogues. Students will develop their reference skills and their ability to select relevant materials for the task. Blackboard will be the main form of communication and information sharing in this module. Students will have to develop a PowerPoint presentation and prepae clips and screenshots from films.
Personal Development and Career planning Students will be given the opportunity to evaluate current knowledge and skills. Students will be encouraged to take increasing responsibility for managing their own learning. Students will be encouraged to build upon the knowledge gained from lectures and apply this to other areas.
Problem solving Students should be able to identify tensions and debates in the field, and will be encouraged to critically reflect on the process by which academics arrive at particula theoretical interpretaions of particular films and historiographies.
Research skills Students will be able to develop their skills of information location and retrieval. Students will be able to develop their textual analytic skills, and to lean to analyze texts in a focused and puropseful manner. Students will be encouraged to evaluate, interpret and reflect upon a variety of sources.
Subject Specific Skills Students will learn how to edit and prepare visuals for presentation purposes.
Team work Students will be encouraged to do their seminar presentations in small groups to encourage teamwork and division of work according to their skills.

Reading List

Recommended Text
Chapman, James (2008) War and Film London: Reaktion Primo search Clarke, James (2006) War Films Primo search Guynn, William (2006) Writing Histoy in Film Primo search Hughes-Warrington, Marnie (2007) History goes to the movies: studying history on film London: Routledge Primo search Rosenstone, Robert (2006) History on Film/Film on History Primo search Rosenstone, Robert (1994) Revisioning History: Film and the Construction of a New Past Princeton UP Primo search Westwell, Guy (2006) War Cinema: Hollywood on the Front Line London: Wallflower Press Primo search White, Hayden (1990) The Content of the form: Narrative Discourse and Historical Representation Primo search Woll, Josephine (2003) The Cranes are Flying (KinoFile 7) London: I.B. Tauris Primo search Youngblood, Denise (2007) Russian war Films: On the Cinema Front, 1914-2005 Lawrence: University Press of Kansas Primo search


This module is at CQFW Level 6