The History Boys

Erudite,Wistful but Weighty, 5 July 2009

Author: gary-444 from United Kingdom

A triumphant transposition of the stage play onto the screen, the stage cast are also used in their entirety to create a cast that is both convincing and compelling. School room dramas frequently fail as the students appear as actors playing students. So well written is the script, and so well performed are the parts that each boy convinces in his own right. That each is a recognisable “type” yet fails to conform to that type is the touchstone for the films success.

Superficially, the story is slight, of eight Oxbridge candidates in their seventh term. However this merely provides a framework for an exploration of education, learning, history, sexuality, youthful hope and middle aged frustration.

Writer Alan Bennet’s success is in his dialogue, an area at which British writers consistently outperform their American counterparts, with the exception of Tarantino and the Coen brothers.No CGI, no explosions, no helicopters, just razor sharp speech and a preparedness to take on the audience with ideas.

Homosexuality is a dominant theme and is skilfully explored. Flambuoyant English Teacher Hector is much loved by his pupils, and his awkward genital gropes whilst offering motorcycle rides accepted with weary resignation by his students. Yet he is is married, and like his teaching he can’t quite get to the “point”, what it “is” is enough. Student Dakin, the classroom Lothario, confidently accepts the adoration of the school secretary,students and staff with his self assured bisexuality. Student Posner haltingly explores his emerging homosexuality through his learning.

But learning and education dominate and a script littered with witty one liners, learned quotations, and numerous “bon mots” entertain,amuse and question in equal measure. The cast are uniformly brilliant, all essential ingredients to a very satisfying whole. A must for anyone for whom words matter. 

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