Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The History Boys

S and I break from our usual Wednesday night cinema pattern to make use of our only common night off this week. The History Boys is a wonderful, intelligent, engaging, moving, funny film – I’d highly recommend it, this is British filmmaking on good form.

Unlike many stage to celluloid transfers, The History Boys makes the switch well and it’s really only in the last scene, a very ‘theatre’ conceit, that you’re really conscious of its origins.

Whilst the potential provided by transfer of media was not capitalised on in that instance, in other ways the faithful adherence to the play is definitely positive. One scene is undertaken in French. Now my French (just like the headmaster’s, who stumbles into the scene) is not fantastic, there were words I missed, but you can understand enough. In fact the whole point is that some of the characters understand more than others. I guess it’s a risk that some audiences will have to rely mostly on the physical clues as to what is occurring, but actually that in itself is enough. Subtitles would certainly ruin the whole atmosphere and it’s a relief that the playing to the lowest denominator temptation is resisted.

The world of clever honey-voiced boys staying late after school to sing around a piano, isn’t exactly something I can relate to, but this is clearly a very personal play by Bennett and is crafted so well as to make the unknown credible. The characters are wonderfully well drawn and the acting superb. The decision to transfer the cast lock stock and barrel from the stage production pays off particularly well for the boys, where their familiarity as a group is palpable.

The dialogue simple shines at times, not least in some of the occasional one-liners (some recorded here). Rudges definition of history as “just one fucking thing after another”, has been widely reported, but for our audience at least it was the conversation between two teachers about one’s habit for laying his hand on pupil’s thighs that delighted most. The culprit attempts to claim that it’s more of a ‘laying on of hands’ than anything else. This is swiftly denounced by the other teacher “Hector darling, love you as I do, that is the most colossal balls…A grope is a grope. It is not the annunciation.”

Sadly the end scene does let it down rather and the implication that everyone who is x, will secretly aspire to transgression y, is a little disappointing, but don’t let that get in the way of you seeing this wonderful film.


Caroline said...

ok liz, we're bored now....gee, these intermittent bloggers, what are we goign to do with them?

darren said...

hey liz

catching up and getting back in the groove.

i saw this movie too and also found it witty and intelligent. I also agree that it crossed over from the stage pretty well - is it me or did they avoid too many close ups? i thought frances de la tour was the most convincing in role as a head of department - boring but a survivor. i caught the the message of the need for a libiterian and classic chalk and talk approach to education really easily - as a teacher that should be no surprise and frankly i found that a bit of a cheap shot - inspiring teachers do both with ease. i was more interested in the abstract message about the need for some kind of emotional awakening (in the case of these boys, sexual (i thought it quite brilliant when the lad and the teacher on whom he was hitting actually hid in a closet!)) in education. i've been thinking a lot recently about this whole subject of emotional literacy and thought the movie was very thought provoking in that respect.

but overall i found the whole plot pretty unbelievable. coming out to a teacher, rides on a teacher's motorbike (even without the laying on of hands) - you have got to be having a laugh. when i was at school in the same era as the film was set teachers were objects of derision and contempt. the feeling was mutual too. even the arty types - music teacher and so on were never that close to the kids. maybe i was just too emotionally immature? i dunno.

not that it spoiled it for me though. great film.