Sunday, 23 August 2015

035. My thoughts after watching the film version of Alan Bennett's The History Boys

Image credits here

The History Boys

Cast: Dominic Cooper, Samuel Barnett, Stephen Campbell Moore, James Corden, Jamie Parker, Russell Tovey, Richard Griffiths, Sacha Dhawan, Frances de la Tour, Clive Merrison, Samuel Anderson, Andrew Knott, Georgia Taylor

While recovering from the unholy alliance of flu and asthma, I was looking for something that could help me pass the time. And as I was looking for updates on my favourite actor, I looked again at his previous work, which included this movie--which led me to wonder why I haven't watched it (with avid interest) before! So, I did and it was two hours well-spent!

In early 1980s Yorkshire, eight schoolboys from an all-boys grammar school recently obtained highest ever A-level scores and are hoping to enter Oxford or Cambridge. Stuart Dakin (Cooper), David Posner (Barnett), Richard Timms (Corden), Chris Crowther (Anderson), Adi Akhtar (Dhawan), Donald Scripps (Parker), and James Lockwood (Knott) all prepare for the seventh term exam in History. For this, the Headmaster (Merrison) appointed Tom Irwin (Moore), a young teacher who is particularly hard to impress.

The boys are not without their favourite teachers. Hector, who teaches General Studies is—pun not intended—a general favourite with the boys works alongside with another favourite teacher Mrs. Dorothy Lintott, the deputy head of the school, and the regular history teacher. Throughout the whole term, the boys prepare for the exams as they write out essay after essay, and deal with their lives in school. 

One of the things I’ve noticed in the movie was that the boys, while taking the piss out of someone each other, they are united. They work together as a team, and do not pull other people down. Also, I love their cheeky humour, as they openly discuss matters with their teacher—something that cannot be done here—or if it’s possible, it’s very rare. The only instance that I’ve remembered this was when I was in my junior and senior year in high school, and much later in my Public International Law class in law school. 

Not to digress, this movie reminded me of the passion I had for learning and studying the law—or learning, per se. All through the movie, I find myself smiling and nodding in agreement in many of the dialogues and scenes. One of my favourite quotes from the movie is from Hector: “The best moments in reading are when you come across something - a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things - that you'd thought special, particular to you. And here it is, set down by someone else, a person you've never met, maybe even someone long dead. And it's as if a hand has come out, and taken yours.” 

I also loved the short re-enactments of famous movies by the boys, which seem to happen at random during the movie. At first, I thought they were merely skits, but at the end credits, I saw the acknowledgements made. 

The actors have other talents other than acting—Samuel Barnett (who was nominated for a Tony award for the play on which this movie is based) made a brilliant rendition of “Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered” in one of the scenes, and accompanied by Jamie Parker, who is remarkably talented with the piano.

The boys’ futures were later revealed at the end of the movie—Hector died in a motorbike accident, and Lockwood in a friendly fire at the age of 28. Dakin became  tax lawyer; Scripps, a journalist; Akthar, a headmaster, and Posner, a teacher who used Hector’s approach to teaching. Crowther became a magistrate; Rudge, a builder, and Timms, a drug-taking dry cleaning manager. 

Fun Facts: (thank you, IMDB!)

• Cooper, Moore, Barnett, et. al are the same cast as the original play produced at the National Theatre in London, UK in 2004, and also the same cast in the Broadway run of the play.
• This movie was filmed for only 30 days!
• The film is based on the award winning play by Alan Bennett, which ran at the National Theatre in London from May 2004 until April 2005.
• Many of the extras in the film are also members of staff at the National Theatre in London (where Nicholas Hytner is the artistic director) who were invited to visit the set and have the chance of appearing in the finished film.
• Samuel Barnett was nominated for the 2005 Tony Award (New York City) for Supporting or Features Actor in a Drama for "The History Boys" and recreated the role in this production.
• Richard Griffiths' character rides a Velocette motorcycle.


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