Sunday, January 25, 2009

The History Boy

I just saw 'The History Boys'. It's supposedly based on a play of the same name produced in 2005. The movie is about eight boys who are aiming to get into Oxford or Cambridge to study history. The boys are students of a grammar school which is preparing them for the entrance exams. The movie is set in 1983 and revolves around the eight students and their three completely contrasting teachers with the Headmaster and the secretary playing minor roles.

The movie was simply stunning in terms of direction. The scenes moved from one to another with a kind of fluidity that you just can't talk of until you've seen a movie like this. There isn't one moment when you think the camera stayed on a shot too long or the soundtrack faltered. The acting too is praiseworthy, especially considering that it was the original cast of the play that acted in the movie!

The headmaster, Felix, is the easily identifiable conformist. He wants regular, structured and relevant 'education' to be imparted in the school, that - in his own words - can be quantified. The guy who teaches General Studies is known as Hector, by students and teachers alike, and is a not-really-closet homosexual (You'll understand what that means if you see the movie). The regular History professor is Mrs Lintott, who scarily reminds me of our own history prof. back at college, especially at the time of the mock interviews. (I swear, if someone just showed you a 5 minute clip of that bit of ranting and asked you to compare...). Irwin is a young teacher hired by the headmaster to help Hector and Mrs. Lintott prepare the boys for the entrance exams.

That's all I'm going to say about the plot/characters. I think the awesomeness of this movie lies in the fact that it has so many layers. At no point in the movie do they ever explicitly talk about what you just know is really being talked about. However, I think this has something to do with the whole student-teacher relationship thing, because when the boys are talking amongst themselves, they do so with such shocking frankness, I can only fervently hope that it isn't like that in real life!

The boys themselves are endearing and you end up liking them all - even smart ass Dakin and small Posner! Their characters are carefully contrasting, yet they manage to complement each other. There's the guy with the attitude, the jock, the admirer, the sidekick and so on. They all have their own single axis that they revolve around and it's beautiful too watch. You know, there's a line in the movie where Mrs. Lintott tells Hector that students forget that teachers too are human beings... I find this line to be beautifully appropriate here because the teachers in this movie are the complicated, layered people, while the boys are relatively straightforward. Mind you, that's probably just because their lives are not what the movie focuses on, but still...

This movie is more than just about History and student teacher relationships. It's about friendship and growing up and just about life. It's about different characters and how you identify with almost all of them at some point or the other. But more than all of that, it's about the subjunctive and reconciliation between contradictions... and the fact that history is made just like that. By one thing following another...

A must see, and definitely worth more than a one time watch.


Couldn't resist it. If some of our professors had to play those teachers, this is how I think the casting would have been done.

Mrs. Lintott - History prof, or at least how she could have been (or must have at some point).

Hector -A mix of Socio and Torts. Hah! I can actually imagine it!

Irwin - Well, we don't really have anyone like that, but I'd say the closest would be Consti... (However, Irwin is a lot more insecure... and a LOT less colder!)

No comments:

Post a Comment