The History Boys **
"The History Boys" started out as a play by Alan Bennett, and ended up becoming a smash hit that won the most Tony Awards in history. Now its become a movie, boasting the award winning cast and production team as the play. It was even conviently made shortly after the end of its run at the theatre, keeping the script and story fresh in the actors minds. Now I was expecting something special, and something with alot of heart. An inspiratial teacher movie. Something where the students learn from their professor, not just history, science, and english, but important life values. That's in there, and there is plenty of it. Believe me-there are some scenes of teaching that go on for well over five minutes. But when all was said and done, I had t his creepy and unsettling feeling in the pit of my stomach. This movie gave me the creeps-and it's easy to see why. . .
A group of students at a private school in England have recently been given some great news. They have all passed their finals, and they all passed with such high grades that they are being considered for scholarships to Oxford and Cambridge-and all that would be required is another few months before the entrance exams. In order to get all of them to pass, and to give a good name for the school, the headmaster hires Mr. Irwin, and Oxford graduate who agrees to step in to help the boys ace the test. Unfortunely, the time with Mr. Irwin forces the headmaster to cut time with Mr. Hector, the arts and culture teacher, who the boys always have alot of fun with. Mr. Hector does not seem to have lesson plans, or themes that run throughout the hour. Instead he drifts from subject to subject, sometimes bursting out into another language for minutes at a time. Mr. Hector is teaching the students to be more well rounded people, and gives a damn about their education and life instead of just trying to get them through a set of exams. He has one little problem though-every now and them he ends up touching the boys in an odd manner, something that is usual for him, and something that the boys look at as a ritual of sorts. Everybody goes througt it at some point. When Mr. Hector offers to give a motorcycle ride home to Posner, the new shy student in the class, he is caught in the act. The headmaster sees this as an opportunity to force Hector into an early retirement, which he greets with sadness. The headmaster does not see Hector's style of teaching as the most fitting way-and instead cannot stop gushing about how amazing Irwin is. As Hector faces his retirement, and the boys face their exams, it'll be more than luck that'll be needed to get them through it.
Now, can you see why this gave me the willies? Everybody is raving about this, saying how wonderful it is, and how funny it is. But is anybody seeing what I'm seeing? I'm seeing trying to create sympathy for the teacher that touches young boys. I mean nobody seems to care about this little aspect of it. Mr. Hector seems to be a nice man and all, but this little bit is what I just can't get past. Richard Grifiths as Hector does try and get the audience to feel sorry for him, and at times I almost drifted towards that idea, but then it just hit me again what he was doing, and any type of sympathy that I had for him just disappeared. And then there is the relationship that develops between Mr. Irwin and Dakin, the Ladies Man of all the boys. It appears that Dakin is bisexual, and has his eyes set on Mr. Irwin. And conviently, it appears that Irwin is gay, and does have a little bit of a fondness for Dakin. One of the final scenes in the movie has them talking and making plans for a date at some point. It was strange to watch, and I was nervously shifting in my seat. I wasn't aware that pedipelia would be a part of this movie going experience. I really couldn't see what was wonderful about this film at all-there is not a single character here that we can feel bad for, even though Griffths does try to come close. Before even finding about his little habit with the boys there is a wonderful scene where he is teacher a group of them-when the headmaster comes in and introduced Hector to Irwin, Hector is in the middle of an Italian lesson, which involves one of the boys atop the desk doing something that might not be according to dress code. When the headmaster comes in to find Hector and the boys having a good laugh, Hector continues to speak in Italian. And then another great scene in the film has Hector teaching a student privately about a book that the student is reading. For the first time, all jokes aside, we see that Hector really is a good teacher, as he lectures this young man about the wonders of books-
"The best moments in reading are those when you find a passage seems to have been written just for you. It's as if a hand is reaching out and grabbing yours. . "
And then, during both of these scenes, I am soon reminded of everything else that Hector has done, and any type of admireation for him goes away. My favorite character here is probably the headmaster, played perfectly by Clive Merrison. He is a steorotypical, uptight headmaster who cares about results, but the character is played so well. His reponses to what Hector is up to, and his worries about the boys were all played great. And there was nothing creepy about him at all. I've heard that "The History Boys" translated well from the stage, and at times the movie did seem very much like the play, so I guess they did a good job with that. But the whole story, the characters, the situations, all just made me nervous and creeped out. I didn't expect it to be so wrong. Perhaps this should stay on the stage, or inside Bennett's head, because I did not need to be subjected to this strange and disturbing "comedy."