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Flatlife (2004)

Flatlife is a humorous take on the unintended interactions of four neighbours going about their everyday lives. As the camera closes in on four windows in a block of flats it exposes one room in each flat. On a split screen the action unfolds in all four flats at the same time and we see how the neighbours react as their daily routines impinge upon each other. Watching television, hanging up a painting, doing the laundry, constructing a tower of cards might all seem like solitary and harmless activities, but somehow these neighbours can’t help disturbing each other, getting in each other’s way and even endangering each other – even when they just try to help out. Using colourful and vivid drawn animation, Gaernert manages to weave in unexpected and absurd interventions – like a flying panda – in a deadpan and effortless manner.

Classroom Activities

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Questions

  • Which room would you prefer to live in and why?

  • What is the story behind the panda?

  • How are objects disposed of?

  • Which flat was your eye drawn to most and why?

  • Are there any repetitive symbols, images or motifs?

  • Did you find the film funny? If so, why?

Watching

  • Using freeze frame, pause the film at the point when the bird is flying towards the tower window. Ask pupils to predict what will happen next.

  • Using freeze frame, pause the film at the point when the yellow-room man’s TV is on fire. Ask pupils why his TV is on fire and predict how he will solve the problem.

  • Cover the screen and play the soundtrack only. Ask the children to describe what they think is happening under the headings of: places; people; time; story. Watch the film and compare it with your initial predictions.

  • Focus on the camera shots used in the film: ask pupils to define/classify the two main types of shot used. Look for examples of: interior shots; exterior shots; medium shots; close-ups.

  • Listen to the music of the film. What does the beat and musical instrument used in the opening sequence remind you of? When is this rhythm repeated?

  • Screen the film and ask pupils to concentrate on the soundtrack. List all the diegetic sounds they can pick up (sounds that are produced by events and action in the story).

Analysing

  • Create a timeline for the film, focusing on ‘cause and effect’. Present it in written form, either with linking lines and arrows, or with statements such as “because X does this … this happens”.

  • Discuss a variety of feelings suggested by the film: being angry, frustrated, etc. Discuss how you show or tell others how you feel. Talk about tolerance and consideration for others, and respecting differences.

  • Role-play different ways of being neighbourly and helpful.

  • Discuss the different ways the people in the flats could have chosen to live as neighbours.

  • Discuss the structure of the story: what happens at the beginning of the story; and at the end of the story. What are the most important events, things that happen in the story? What do you think happens after the end of the story?

  • Screen this film alongside Nightshift and discuss similar themes, differences, etc.

Creative

  • Describe a typical day or diary entry for one of the characters.

  • Try writing a story from four different points of view.

  • Try to re-tell the story as a traditional linear narrative.

  • Create a simple storyboard, retelling the story, with captions.

  • Create a comic strip version of the film using drawings or still images plus speech and thought bubbles for each of the characters.

  • Role-play a ‘noisy neighbour’ situation in real life. Consider alternative courses of action and dialogue that might keep the peace or solve the problem.

  • Learn about question beginnings using a dice or sheet (who, what, when, why, where, how). Create a range of questions to ask a partner who is ‘hot-seated’ as one of the flat owners. Create a simple questionnaire to be completed by the partner.

Clip Details

Record Id 007-002-000-125-C
Resource Rights Holder Jonas Gaernert and Thomas Jans
Project Ref STSH2-10
Year of Production 2004
Genre Comedy
Curriculum Areas Expressive Arts, Health and Wellbeing, Literacy and English, Social studies, Religious and moral education, Mathematics
Who Jonas Gaernert (Writer, Animator)
Country of Origin Belgium
Medium / Content 2D Animation, Fiction, Colour, Sound
Themes Neighbours, Frustration, Rhythm, Co-operation
Clip Length 10:00