This pack contains a photocopiable Student's Guide and a Teacher's Commentary.

In the Student's Guide the film is segmented into 13 units of 10-15 minutes duration. This facilitates work in the normal class period. There is a series of questions for each sequence that guides the viewing of the students and encourage them to keep a personal Response Journal.

The Teacher's Commentary is a well researched separate booklet which covers issues raised in the guide.

(Extra material for the Comparative Study is available in pdf format for those dealing with the Leaving Certificate English Syllabus.)

Each pack is priced @ € 40.00, postage free. Titles are shipped on receipt of payment. Delivery is by Standard Post: next-day delivery in Ireland, and 2-10 days for international orders.

Extract​ from Teacher's Commentary

SEQUENCE 1 ENNISCORTHY
(DVD Chapter 1: 0.00 - 8.56: 8 mins)
​Let the film roll until Eilis’s ship moves off

As a poignant musical theme plays on the soundtrack, the film opens on a night-time shot of a dark street. A single lamp-post throws light on the scene. Two cars are parked on either side of the road. They look like models from the 1950s. A pair of bicycles lean on a metal railing that runs along the left-hand side of the frame. Smoke or light rain drifts from the right over a dismal empty scene. Dark greys, browns and black are the predominant colours in the composition. A cut to a close-up of the obscured glass of a door introduces the main character in the action, Eilis Lacey. She is walking towards the camera. We do not get a clear view of her through the glass. She turns out the hall light and steps outside and we see that she is a young woman. She proceeds down the street. The camera tracks backwards in front of her so that her face continues to occupy the same amount of the frame. Then a cut shows her walking to the end of the street towards a building that looks like a church. Another cut to an internal shot of a church follows and a male voice comes on the soundtrack intoning a prayer in Latin from the Consecration of the Catholic mass. The use of Latin is another indication that this film is set in an age before the 1970s, after which the vernacular replaced Latin in the ceremonies of the Catholic Church. A reverse medium shot of one of the church pews presents us with three women kneeling devoutly and listening to the priest’s voice. The woman in the middle is older than the other two. A close-up of Eilis shows her suppressing a yawn: she could be tired, or bored with the proceedings. The woman beside her, Ms Kelly, is less than impressed with this sign of in-attention. Another close-up shot of Eilis lets us see that she is as conscious of the scrutiny of Ms Kelly as she is of the Divine Presence in the church. We are being positioned to draw these conclusions about Eilis by the camerawork and the editing. The screen fades to black and the title Brooklyn appears.

A three-shot opens the next scene as the women from the church stand in front of a grocery shop window whose blinds are down. Ms Kelly is opening the shop door. Eilis asks if she can talk to Ms Kelly later and receives a cranky answer. We are being positioned to view this woman as one who sees herself as being above, and only barely tolerant of, Eilis. A reaction shot of Eilis shows the pressure she is under in dealing with this woman. The next shot is a close-up of Eilis taking a single cigarette out of a sealed tin. This may be an indication of the impoverished state of the customer who can only afford to indulge his smoking habit sparingly. Ms Kelly, who has been keeping a close watch on what is going on outside in the street declares that nine o’clock mass is over. The audience might conclude that Ms Kelly and the girls have been to early mass in order to be ready for the customers who will visit the shop later in the morning. Medium shots of Eilis, her fellow worker, Mary, and Ms Kelly show us the after-mass crowd of customers who throng the shop. Ms Kelly’s face cracks into a smile as one customer, Mrs Brady, enters. It is the first time we have seen her without the sour face she showed during the mass. She holds all the other customers and her staff in equal disdain, but her attitude to this customer is different. Eilis, who has already asked a customer to hold on for a moment, is embarrassed when she is ordered, instead, to attend to Mrs Brady, who has ordered a quarter pound of rashers from the back of the crowd. The quick reaction shots of the customer and Eilis inserted by the editing position us to draw this conclusion. The quick succession of shots of the exchange between Ms Kelly and the customer who asks for shoe polish suggests the discomfiture of the woman and shows clearly the lack of respect that Ms Kelly has for her. We are being positioned to view her as a cold and unsympathetic woman who looks down on her fellow townspeople. She is the embodiment of small-town snobbery.

A medium shot of Eilis as Mary clears up lets us see her gather herself to have the talk with Ms Kelly that she requested in the earlier scene. The latter tells her ungraciously to “Spit it out, whatever it is”, an instruction hardly designed to put the young woman at her ease. A series of shot/reverse shots gets the dialogue across to us. The camera is handheld and its slightly shaky motion increases our sense of Eilis’s discomfiture. If Ms Kelly is surprised by the news that Eilis is off to America, she keeps it well hidden and dismissively asks whose idea it was. After hearing the details of how her sister, Rose, and a golf partner of hers, Fr Flood, arranged things for Eilis, she terminates her employment. She refuses Eilis’s offer to continue working until it is time for her to leave and walks away. A more distant two-shot punctuates the conversation at this point but the medium shots return when Ms Kelly stops and talks about Rose. The camera lingers on Eilis as her sister’s bleak future is spelled out to her by her spiteful ex-employer. An over-the-shoulder shot of Eilis shows her discomfiture. Then the soundtrack plays the sound of Ms Kelly’s footsteps as she walks away and draws a curtain. The unsteady, handheld camera holds on Eilis and the long take, the delay in cutting away from her, invites us to share in her distress as the consequences of her emigrating sink in. This is the first of many dinner table scenes that will punctuate the narrative. Mrs Lacey sits in the centre of the composition in this establishing shot with her daughters on either side of her. Pictures and lampstands add to the symmetry of the composition. A close-up shot of Eilis breaks the cosiness of the scene as she mentions how she wishes she had written to Fr Flood about Rose. This links the scene directly back to the previous one and continues to position us to empathise with the sense of guilt that has been inserted into Eilis’s mind by Ms Kelly. Rose maintains that she never thought of emigrating because she has a full-time job as opposed to the mere hours of employment that Eilis had. She refers to Ms Kelly as “Nettles Kelly” and then calls her “a terrible auld witch.” Mrs Lacey tries to maintain a sense of Christian charity in their conversation, but a close-up positions us to see a wry smile breaking across her lips, indicating that she sees more than a little truth in the nickname. Further close-ups of the daughters invite us to share their gentle mockery of the naivety of their mother as she refers to the climate of America. The editing continues to add close-ups as the talk gets on to buying clothes and we can see clearly the shock that comes over the faces of Rose, Eilis and Mrs Lacey when reference is made unwittingly to the length of time Eilis will be spending away. This is emphasised by the slowing down of the cutting and the rather longer take of Rose as the words slip out.

The next scene opens with a rapping on another front door. Eilis’s friend, Nancy opens it and smiles excitedly. She is beautiful, smiling, well dressed and wearing a bow in her hair. They link arms and walk down the street together. The camera frames them in medium shot and tracks before them. This keeps the attention of the audience on them as they continue to occupy the same space in the frame: we are positioned to empathise with their pleasure in each other’s company and take in all that they say. Eilis compliments Nancy on her looks and talks about her despair “of this place.” She is referring to the town of Enniscorthy and the lack of opportunity it offers young women. She also refers disparagingly to George Sheridan and the local rugby club. Nancy is obviously smitten with him but Eilis seems to want more than her native town is offering. She dismisses George as “... not Gary Cooper,” a Hollywood heartthrob from the 40s and 50s. She also dismisses his companions from the rugby club who all follow the same fads and fashions in “... hair oil and ... blazers”. The only good thing she says about George is that he will inherit a fine business in the town when his time comes. The atmosphere between the two friends is still good in spite of Eilis’s put-downs, but Nancy changes the subject at this stage and talks about Eilis’s costume. The latter’s excuse for not dressing up more is that she is going away. The suggestion is that she is dissatisfied with this small-town man-hunting. This scene closes with a long shot of the two friends crossing the street to join the crowd outside the dance.

This scene opened with the camera facing a closed front door, the second time in the narrative that the camera has introduced a character in this way. Eilis was presented to us through the obscured glass so we did not get a clear picture of her to start with. From the very start, however, we see Nancy fully and clearly. This may reflect their different attitudes to life in Enniscorthy. One of them accepts things as they are and sees herself and the life before her clearly; the other is a character who is still coming to terms with the world and has to grow into a sense of herself. Very often a narrative will present an enigma to the audience at the start. The solving of this enigma becomes the engine that drives the plot onwards, as it were. The fragmented picture of Eilis that we saw at the start and the fully formed image of Nancy may be an indication of the journey Eilis has to go on in this narrative in an attempt to come to a fully formed and clear picture of who she is and what she wants from life. Inside the dancehall the band plays to a small crowd that is dispersed around the hall in clusters, some standing around, some conversing and a few couples dancing. An over-the-shoulder shot from the point of view of Nancy and Eilis shows us the entrance of a cohort of young men all dressed in blazers and wearing hair oil! A reaction shot shows Nancy’s excitement and the indifference of Eilis which we detected in their dialogue in the previous scene. A close-up of the fiddler in the band introduces a new tune and a reverse shot from behind the band shows the dance-floor packed with couples: the evening has moved on and more people have arrived. The camerawork and the editing have moved the action on in a very economic way. This will become a major feature of the narrative technique in this film. Medium shots of one of the rugby crowd and Nancy follow. We know from the dialogue in the last scene what is going on here.

Extract from Student's Guide: 

SEQUENCE 1

ENNISCORTHY
​Read the following questions and then let the film roll until Eilis’s ship moves off 

What impression of the world of this film do you get from the opening shot? What is the main colour tone in the composition? What time period is the action set in? What time of the day might it be? How is Eilis, the main character in the narrative, presented to us in the second shot of the film? Where is the action of the next scene set? What language is on the soundtrack? What ritual is being carried out? Describe the camerawork as Eilis is next presented to us. What differences do you see between these three characters? How is the camera used here?

Describe the setting in the next scene. What request has Eilis? How might Ms Kelly’s response tell us about her? How do you think Eilis feels at this point? What is Eilis selling when we cut to the interior of the shop? What might this tell us about her customer? What is Ms Kelly looking out for? Does any change come over her as she keeps an eye what is going on when the shop fills up? What might this tell us about her? How does Eilis feel about the woman who claims that she was “next”? How does this woman feel about the way she is being treated? How does Ms Kelly treat the woman who asks for shoe polish? How are we, the audience, being invited to view Ms Kelly?

How do you think Eilis is feeling as Ms Kelly locks up the shop? Are you surprised at the way she responds to Eilis? How well prepared for emigration is Eilis? Who has helped her with these preparations? How does Ms Kelly respond when she hears the details? Does this response surprise you? Describe the camerawork and editing as Ms Kelly talks about Rose’s future. Why might a director use the camera in this way? How are we being positioned to view Eilis? Describe what you hear and see when Ms Kelly finishes speaking and leaves. How is Eilis feeling? What do you think of the way the director has presented this scene to us? What might be on Eilis’s mind when she mentions Fr Flood at dinner? Why is Rose not interested in emigrating? What is her main concern for Eilis? How does she feel about Ms Kelly? What kind of a relationship has Rose with her mother? … with Eilis? How do they get on with their mother? How do they treat her? Why does Rose stop in mid-sentence when talking about Eilis buying clothes? How does Eilis react? Describe the camerawork and editing at this point. What does Rose think of Eilis’s departure, in your opinion?

How is Nancy presented to us when we first see her? How does this compare with the way Eilis was introduced? How are Eilis and Nancy presented to us as they walk down the street? How does this position us to view them and follow their conversation? What kind of a friendship do they have? Why does Eilis “... despair of this place”? What does Nancy think of George Sheridan? What does Eilis think of him and the rugby club boys in general? What does Eilis mean when she refers to the “... beautiful shop in the market square”? What might this suggest about the society these girls live in? What kind of a life have girls like Eilis and Nancy in this town? Why does Nancy ask about Eilis’s blue dress? What is Eilis’s attitude to the dance now that she has decided to emigrate?