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Man With The Beautiful Eyes, The (1999)

A young boy plays with friends in the garden of what appears to be an abandoned house, against parental warning. But it’s not abandoned: in the house lives a wild man with blazing eyes, quite different in character to their own parents. The children suspect this difference is the cause of their parents’ disapproval and their warnings about the house. Later, the house is burnt to the ground; the children suspect their parents and conventional society are to blame. Adapted from a Charles Bukowski poem, the abstract and lyrical visualisation gives a dreamlike quality that is very evocative.

Classroom Activities

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Questions

  • Why do the kids like to play at the strange house?

  • Who do you think ‘the man with the beautiful eyes’ is and what happens to him?

  • What are the kids’ parents doing when we see them? What do you think that tells us about them? What does it tell us about how the kids saw them?

  • The narrator says his parents were ‘ashamed’. What does he think they were ashamed of?

  • How did the kids think the house came to be burned down?

  • Why do you think the first shot in the film is of a ‘missing child’ poster? Who do you think the child is and what has happened to them?

Watching

  • Before watching the film, cover the screen and ask pupils to listen carefully to the soundtrack. Ask them what they think they are listening to. Can they recognise that this is a poem?

  • Show the first shot of the film. Ask if this gives any clues about what will happen in the poem. If necessary, draw attention to the poster "Have you seen this child?". Record ideas on to the flipchart.

  • Select any 20-second sequence from the film. Using the Spot the Shots worksheets, ask pupils to record what is in each shot and how many ways they can spot of moving from one shot to the next (transitions). Can they suggest why each type of transition is used?

  • Show the film up to “the shades were / down / as always / and it was / quiet”. Ask pupils why the man’s words are shown on the screen and represented in this particular way. (If necessary, replay and freeze-frame on the lines “You god damned whore” and “Hey, little gentlemen, having a good time, I hope?”). What does this suggest about the man, if anything, and about the boys’ perception of him? Draw attention to the contrast presented between the boys’ parents and the man. How is this contrast shown?

Analysing

  • Show students the opening of the film and its conclusion. Ask them to speculate what happens in the film to connect the two.

  • Issue copies of the poem and ask pupils to highlight the most significant words. In groups, discuss how you would represent these words visually, either in a drawing or in film.

  • Now watch the film and look at how some of these words have been represented or highlighted by the film-maker. How does the animator draw similes and metaphors?

  • Show pupils Bukowski's poem and examine the effect of the line breaks on meaning and reading. For example, in the opening, the words 'always' and 'drawn' are emphasised because they stand alone on single lines. Similarly, the first two line breaks coincide with natural pauses in the sense (the first after a subordinate clause, the second after the main clause); but this natural rhythm is then broken in the third line (the line should logically run through to drawn, the end of the clause, but breaks at were). This kind of erratic rhythm is also present in the final lines. What does this suggest of the tone of the poem, or the atmosphere that the poet is trying to create?

  • Discuss the use of colour in the film. What is striking about it? Is it all in bright colours? What might each of the colours represent?

Creative

  • Hand out the poem and ask groups to design a storyboard of images to go with the text.

  • Choose a narrative poem which has some striking imagery (‘A Case of Murder’ by Vernon Scannell’ is a good example). Ask pupils to read it carefully and highlight some key words or phrases. Now ask them to draw or storyboard a short sequence from the poem.

  • Write about a time when your parents warned you against doing something or going somewhere but you went ahead anyway.

  • Write a narrative poem about a significant event in your childhood.

  • Discussion/Debate: “It’s human nature to always be attracted to dangerous things”.

  • Pick up the story from where it ends and storyboard the next sequence. Using what materials are available to you, make a short animation of your narrative.

  • Write a simile poem entitled ‘My Past’ or ‘The Past’, making five to ten comparisons.

  • Download the film and remove the soundtrack. Now get pupils to script and record their own voices for the characters.

Clip Details

Record Id 007-002-000-037-C
Resource Rights Holder Sherbet
Project Ref MVS-02
References Poem by Charles Bukowski
Year of Production 1999
Genre Drama
Curriculum Areas Expressive Arts, Health and Wellbeing, Literacy and English, Social studies, Religious and moral education
Who Jonathon Bairstow (Producer), Jonathon Hogson (Animator)
Country of Origin UK
Medium / Content 2D Animation, Fiction, Colour, Sound
Themes Freedom, Conformity, Individualism, Poetry, Childhood, Parents
Clip Length 05:00