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The Man with the Beautiful Eyes

This animated adaptation of Charles Bukowski’s poem of the same name has the poem read over a fluid series of images matched to the rhythm of the words. The narrator recounts his memory of a strange house where he and his friends spent the summer playing in the bamboo-filled yard. One day a rough unshaven man appeared, his eyes ‘blazing’ with brightness. He makes a strong impression on the boys, and when the house mysteriously burns down, they speculate that their parents have done it out of spite because they were jealous and afraid of anyone who was strong and beautiful.

Film Details

Duration 5 minutes 34 seconds
Director Jonathan Hodgson
Production Sherbet
Year 1999
Genre Animation
Themes Childhood, Games, Growing Up, Parents, Life
Curriculum Level 3
Curriculum Areas English, Literacy, Expressive Arts
  • Writer: Charles Bukowski,
  • Designer: Jonny Hannah,
  • Funded by: Channel 4,
  • Voice over: Peter Blegvad, Louis Schendler,
  • Sound design: Jonathan Hodgson,
  • Animators: Jonathan Hodgson, Kitty Taylor, Lucy Hudson,
  • Assistant Animators: Bunny Schendler, Martin Oliver,
  • Artworkers: Mark Shepherd, Jonny Hannah

Key Learning

  • The relationship between words and images in film and in writing.
  • The use of colour in film.
  • The importance of transitions in film.

You will need

TV and DVD player or computer, projector and screen; writing materials; internet access; Spot the Shots sheets.

A closer look using tools for reading film

Sound and Image

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?

Words into Pictures, Pictures into Words

Now issue copies of the poem and ask them to highlight the most significant words as they listen. In groups, discuss how you would represent these words visually, either in a drawing or in film.

Now watch the film with the picture

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?

Spot the Shots

Select any 20-second sequence from the film. Using the ‘Spot the Shots’ sheets, 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?

Generic Translation

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.

Questions for discussion (evaluating)

  • 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 dou you think the child is and what has happened to them?
  • What do you notice about the way the film-maker has used colour in the film? Is it all in bright colours? What might each of the colours represent?

Further activities


Creative Writing:

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.


We Are Always Attracted to Dangerous Things. It’s Human Nature.

English/Art/Media Studies

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.

Related Activities

Curriculum for excellence outcomes

LIT3-01a, LIT3-04a, LIT3-05a, LIT3-07a, LIT3-09a, LIT3-14a, LIT3-15a, LIT3-16a, LIT3-26a, ENG3-17a, ENG3-19a, ENG3-27a, ENG3-30a, ENG3-31a, EXE3-02a, EXE3-03a