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Between Us (2004)

Lukas is stuck in a traffic jam with his parents. He desperately tries to distract himself from their bickering by listening to his music, but the batteries are dead. Despondent and bored, Lukas looks out of the rainy car window and catches sight of a girl of similar age sitting in the back of a bigger and nicer car. The two of them make eye contact and start to communicate using gestures and scribbled messages. Although they are listening to the same music – as they find out – they are from different worlds. The girl obviously comes from a well-off background. Her car has electric windows, whereas Lukas cannot even open his window as the handle is broken. Her parents seem to be attentive and cheerful while his parents are still arguing and being dismissive about him. Just as Lukas is about to find out the girl’s phone number her row starts moving. Lukas shouts at his dad to move, but is roughly pushed back into his seat by his father. He can only watch as his new friend disappears in the traffic.

Classroom Activities

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Questions

  • How do the children communicate? Where is the boy going? Where is the girl going?

  • What is the significance of the title?

  • How are the cars symbolic of the families’ financial status?

  • Whose perspective is the story told from? How do you know?

  • The girl’s parents are not given a voice. Why?

  • What is the significance of the close-ups of the wheels?

  • Why do we never see the interior of the girl’s car?

  • If the car had been a convertible and it had been a sunny day, how would this affect the mood?

  • What can you identify in the interiors of the boy’s car? What do the appearances/clothes of each family tell us about them?

  • Can you find examples of shots that illustrate the title Between Us?

Watching

  • Examine the framing of the boy and girl between their families. Discuss the dynamics of their relationships.

  • Pause at the sequence where the boy says ‘Go Dad go,’ and the father pushes him back. Repeat with the images of the girl leaning forward to speak to her dad. What can you see in the ’frozen’ image? How are the people positioned in the frame? How does the expression on the father’s face compare to the father in the other car? What would both characters be thinking? How does the father try to rectify the situation?

  • Review the scene where the children are holding their fingers up to the window and the closing credits. Discuss the editing techniques used in this sequence. How does it connect the children? What impact does the music have when we see the extreme close-up of their fingers?

  • Discuss the effect the traffic noise (diegetic sound) has by editing it after the children’s visual connection. In what way is this repetitive musical phrase used throughout the film?

  • Listen to the closing credits soundtrack. How do the lyrics of the song relate to the content of the film?

  • Look out for the following shot types and camera movements: close-ups; pans; cuts between the cars; the moving versus the stationary camera; depth of field. Discuss the effect this has on our knowledge of the characters.

  • Using a Spot the Shots worksheet, list the different shot types and angles used in the film and discuss their effects.

  • Using freeze frame or stills from the film, find examples of high-angle close-ups of the boy’s face compared with low-angle close-ups of the girl’s face. Discuss what effect this has on our perception of them?

  • Look for moments when focus and depth of field are used to symbolise the connection between the boy and girl. Also note framing and sequencing (e.g. a soft focus medium shot of the girl’s face followed by an extreme close-up of his finger).

  • Focus on colour: discuss how the exterior colours emphasise mood. Also how the colours of the characters’ clothing reflect their situations.

  • Play the film and ask your pupils to concentrate on the soundtrack. Compile a list of diegetic and non-diegetic sounds in the film. How does the music punctuate the story? How are the arguing parents superimposed over the Walkman’s music? What effect does this have?

Analysing

  • Introduce the concept of binary opposition in storytelling. Use a Tell Me grid to list patterns in the film, especially where binary pairs are used to show differences and tension (e.g. cars; family; parents; use of paper; children’s handwriting; moving forward vs staying still; missed opportunities vs opportunities taken; stationary vs moving wheel).

  • Explore the following ideas in group discussion: ‘the path not taken’; ‘between us’; ‘barriers of communication’.

  • Compare the exterior and interior settings. What do the cars tell us about the families?

  • Why does the director cut from an interior close-up to a depth of field shot? How does that involve us in the story?

  • What is the effect of juxtaposing the cars?

  • Why have so many cuts been used at the start of the film? What atmosphere has been created?

  • How is tension created? How is the interaction between the characters developed?

  • The opening shot focuses on the football and the boy is initially ‘face-less’. What comment about the character is the film-maker suggesting? (For example, football is a team sport.) What effect does the pan to his face create? How does body language convey feelings? What range of emotions does the boy go through?

  • How can the phrase ‘between us’ be differently applied to the shots of both families?

Creative

  • Imagine the boy and girl had exchanged mobile phone numbers. Role play a call between them after her car has driven away.

  • Continuing the story: get your pupils to imagine a new ending to the film which continues the story after the girl’s car has driven off.

  • Write a diary entry from the boy describing his life at home with his family.

  • Create an “I Saw You” poster or advert from the boy looking to find the girl again.

  • Write a description comparing the two families.

  • Write a letter to a magazine agony aunt from the boy asking advice about his family problems. Write the advice back from the agony aunt.

  • Add voices for the girl's parents to the soundtrack. Send an email or text message from the girl to the boy.

  • In the drama classroom, play at mirroring each other's actions and movements.

Clip Details

Record Id 007-002-000-117-C
Resource Rights Holder National Film & Television School
Project Ref STSH2-06
Year of Production 2004
Genre Drama
Curriculum Areas subjects
Who Charlotte Bruus-Christensen (Director, Writer), Rebekah Gilbertson (Producer), Stefan Mork (Director)
Country of Origin UK
Medium / Content Live Action, Fiction, Colour, Sound
Themes Communication, Family, Conflict, Friendship, Frustration
Clip Length 09:00