The History BoysOctober 13, 2006
An unruly class of gifted and charming teenage boys are taught by two eccentric and innovative teachers, as their headmaster pushes for them all to get accepted into Oxford or Cambridge.
Release Year: 2006
Rating: 6.6/10 (11,763 voted)
Critic's Score: 74/100
Stars: Richard Griffiths, Frances de la Tour, Clive Merrison
In 1980s Britain, a group of young men at Cutlers' Grammar School all have the brains, and the will to earn the chance of getting accepted in the finest universities in the nation, Oxford and Cambridge. Despite the fine teaching by excellent professionals like Mrs Lintott in history and the intellectually enthusiastic Hector in General Studies, the Headmaster is not satisfied. He signs on the young Irwin to polish the students' style to give them the best chance. In this mix of intellectualism and creative spirit that guides a rigorous preparation regime for that ultimate educational brass ring, the lives of the randy students and the ostensibly restrained faculty intertwine that would change their lives forever.
Writers: Alan Bennett, Alan Bennett
Stephen Campbell Moore
Frances de la Tour
Meet The Boys Who Are Making History!
Official site [uk] |
Release Date: 13 October 2006
Filming Locations: Belgrave Avenue, Claremount, Halifax, West Yorkshire, England, UK
Box Office Details
Opening Weekend: £794,672
(15 October 2006)
(25 February 2007)
Did You Know?
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.
In the staff room when Hector says 'French Kiss' to the games master, he is holding a copy of the Racing Post. The Racing Post wasn't launched until 1986, three years after the year the film was set.
[Scripps is taking the mick out of Dakin for trying to please Irwin too much]
Have you looked at your handwriting recently? You're beginning to write like him!
[turns to look at Posner's essay]
You're writin' like 'im an' all!
I am not! Dakin writes like him, I write like Dakin.
A triumphant reflection on the adolescent quest for truth and authenticity
British playwright/screenwriter Alan Bennett, whose scintillating wit
first surfaced in his contributions to the 1960 satiric stage revue,
"Beyond the Fringe," wrote "The History Boys," a play set in the early
1980s about English secondary school students and their teachers,
academic competition and the purpose of education, and the chaotic
developments of adolescent sexuality and coming of age.
Specifically, eight boys qualify for the Oxbridge entrance exams, an
unprecedented number for this particular school. Proud of this but,
more importantly, out to capitalize on the enhanced prospects for the
school's future that could follow if all eight are accepted into Oxford
or Cambridge, the Headmaster hires a special tutor to prepare the boys
for the exams. It is in the midst of this cram course that the drama
Produced by Britain's National Theatre, and led by NT Director Nicholas
Hytner, "History Boys" became a smash stage hit in London (in 2004) and
New York (in 2006). In between the launching of these two productions,
Hytner, with his theater cast intact and working from a screen
adaptation by Bennett, directed this filmic version of the play.
Most such segues from stage to screen don't work out well because of
the vast differences between these two mediums in their requirements
for effective dramatic expression. What may be spellbinding stagecraft
can become deadly stasis in the movie house, to everyone's dismay. I'm
absolutely delighted to report that the film, "History Boys," is a
glorious exception to this general tendency.
One major reason is the stupendous cast, led by Richard Griffiths as
the porcine, motorcycle riding, gay English teacher, Hector. Other
teachers are played quite brilliantly by Frances de la Tour (an acerbic
history teacher, Mrs. Lintott, lone advocate for women's achievements
in this testosterone tinged cloister), Clive Merrison (the cynical,
dyspeptic Headmaster, a classic administrator, utterly out of his
element among scholars), and Stephen Campbell Moore (Irwin, a hired gun
brought in to coach the boys for the Oxbridge exams, whose appeal to
them is not only to lie to get ahead, but, more positively, also to
recognize one's uniqueness, one's special qualities, and play them up).
Mr. Griffiths and Ms. De la Tour have reaped numerous theater awards
for their roles. The student contingent is led by Dominic Cooper
(Dakin, the pretty boy), Samuel Barnett (Posner, the fretful one) and
Russell Tovey (Rudge, the jock).
I think the film works primarily because of the snappy interactions and
byplay among the ensemble of the eight students whose odyssey is the
principal subject of the story. The boys are dissimilar types but all
are energized as only high spirited adolescents can be. And it is this
energy – the constant quipping, antics, and small dramas of daily life
among them and in their encounters with their teachers which so
richly infuses the movie with the active pace and rhythms of movement
that film demands.
Bennett also helps the film's proceedings immensely by avoiding the
drawn out speechifying that can succeed on stage but kill off a movie
in nothing flat. His screenplay sparkles with laser-like little
zingers. Examples. Dakin is described by a teacher as "cunt struck."
Rudge, who appears more dull witted than is in fact the case, when
pinned down to define history, gives the notorious reply that has been
used in adverts for the productions: "History is just one f***ing thing
after another." Or this one, uttered by a teacher during a class field
trip to inspect the war memorial at Coventry: "While we may speak of
'Remembrance Day,' the real purpose of war memorials, like Coventry and
the Cenotaph, is to aid forgetting (of the realities of war), not
remembering." (I immediately thought of Maya Lin's Vietnam War Memorial
on the D. C. Mall, which so presciently violates this formula.) There
is also plenty of suspense here to keep film viewers attentive.
Naturally there's the question of whether the boys will succeed on the
exams, what the future holds for each. There's also philosophical
tension, embodied in the clash of pedagogic values and motives between
Hector (the quintessential scholar, the advocate of mastering knowledge
for knowledge's sake) and Irwin (the pragmatic, win-at-any-cost,
success coach, for whom victory most assuredly trumps truth seeking).
And there is sexual tension aplenty among this group as well. Bennett
deftly explores a variety of sexual expressions, primarily homophilic,
among the teachers and students. There is Hector's frank attraction to
the boys, never mind the presence on the scene of his "unexpected"
wife. And Irwin's more latent homophilia, which is not the only
important matter hiding in his personal closet. Among the students
there is Posner's dawning, hesitant realization of his queer impulses,
and Dakin's more confident and polymorphous sexual appetites. "History
Boys" is a triumphant reflection on the adolescent quest for truth and
authenticity, about the world and about oneself. My grades: 9/10 (A)
(Seen on 12/22/06)