The History Boys

2006

Comedy / Drama / Romance

7
Rotten Tomatoes Critics - Certified Fresh 65% · 104 reviews
Rotten Tomatoes Audience - Upright 70% · 25K ratings
IMDb Rating 6.8/10 10 21452 21.5K

Top cast

Russell Tovey as Rudge
Dominic Cooper as Dakin
Frances de la Tour as Mrs. Lintott
720p.WEB 1080p.WEB
1.01 GB
1280*718
English 2.0
R
23.976 fps
1 hr 52 min
Seeds 33
2.07 GB
1920*1078
English 5.1
R
23.976 fps
1 hr 52 min
Seeds 49

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by Chris_Docker 8 / 10

A bit like making bucks fizz with Cristal and more stage than screen, but good nonetheless

A certain transcendence beyond ordinary language could, in one sense, said to be the goal of every artist, communicating, inspiring, or perhaps teaching us something within ourselves that goes beyond the immediate form. Music can arouse feelings and aspirations, stories might evoke similar events in our own experience and throw new light on them, and great paintings can reach out to the sublime within us, taking us beyond the mundane for a brief moment of time. There is a creative element in each of us that goes beyond reasoning; the flash of inner genius; the illumination of the soul. The question of how to awaken that in adolescents preparing for Oxford or Cambridge is one that admits of no straightforward answer, though the teachers portrayed in The History Boys approach it from a number of angles, provoking philosophical challenges to the audience about the nature of education. Add to that the theme of awakening sexuality and at least one teacher who confabulates both strands with his personal sexual desires, and you have an entertaining story, even before adding the side-splitting, intelligent humour.

The beauty - and also the shortfall - of The History Boys is that people who are steeped in theatre made it. With the modern genius of playwright Alan Bennett transferring stage to screen we can be grateful that his masterpieces will reach a wider audience. But this is Bennett-lite, and almost makes us long for the original, full-length work. There is a notable absence of cinematic flourish - use of lighting, camera-work, images and subtleties unique to the silver screen that could have lifted the spirit of The History Boys to something that is beyond the physical limitations of the original stage. There is nothing here that could not have been portrayed equally well there - which leads us to conclude that, apart from it being a more accessible medium, the film is nothing more than a shortened and only mildly adjusted copy of the play. All the actors have the same, excellent projection of voice and perfect intonation that carries well for a live performance but that lacks the sense of intimacy which the camera can bring. Facial expressions are slightly overemphasised, as befitting the stage, but lacking the subtlety usually required for good cinema. At times it sounds too much like a recitation or performance, resulting in an audience detachment that comes from not quite being able to believe in the reality of characters before us or the emotions they are going through. Director Nicholas Hytner (Center Stage, The Crucible, The Madness of King George) also has his roots firmly in theatre, yet his choice of subject matter has generally been so outstanding that he has reaped awards in spite of this clunky, stagey style (the one exception being The Object of My Affection - which was less well critically received). The History Boys is obvious BAFTA-bait but, like the Madness of King George, its pluses fortunately outshine its weaknesses, and the story, humour and intellectual substance are so engaging that you can be guaranteed lots of discussion afterwards with your fellow filmgoers.

In 1998, Bennett (who graduated from Exeter College Oxford in Medieval History) refused an honorary doctorate from Oxford in protest at its links with press baron Rupert Murdoch. If anybody has the background to tell an outrageously authentic and rebellious tale of a-list history students with homo-erotic leanings it must surely be Bennett. He skilfully navigates the ground between appealing to a predominantly gay audience and a mainstream one by sublimating much of the homosexual content beneath the time-honoured stiff upper lip of English public school tradition, and then including hilarious heterosexual content that makes seducing a woman into a war-game. Gilded epigrams, quotable quotes and the most stylish of double-entendres ('gobbets') flood our ears as the boys' literary skills are augmented with the most ingenious of schoolboy deceptions. An ad-libbed enactment of a brothel scene for a French class (where one of the lads removes his trousers for added realism) is transformed seamlessly to a battle front drama when the headmaster makes a surprise appearance. Literary references leap from Thomas Hardy and Keats to Brief Encounter and Carry On films, and this mind-enhancing (if questionable) juxtaposition is faultlessly analysed. The question of 'what is history' is pursued with some vigour, from the idea of 'subjunctive history' to Rudge's down to earth if academically challenged definition - just one effing thing after another. Different intellectual approaches are personified by teachers Hector (knowledge for its own sake, whether it seems useful or not), Irwin (flashes of insight and creativeness that stand out from the usual interpretations) and Mrs Lintott (who suggests radical reinterpretation from a feminist point of view, instead of history being the story of men's inadequate responses told from the point of view of other men).

If all this sounds like an overly cerebral experience, be assured that it races past so quickly that paying attention to the academic content is an optional extra. Lighter viewing can tune in unashamedly to the in-your-face humour, a great soundtrack (The Smiths, New Order, The Clash, The Cure) and additional musical interludes as the lads leap to an old piano and acquit themselves admirably with camp song routines.

Like the similarly highbrow Dead Poets Society and The Browning Version or the more basic Dangerous Minds, The History Boys relies for its emotional ballast on the familiar themes of seeing a successful adult in a promising student, and the frailty of the teaching process, especially when the teachers need to propel students to heights that they themselves have never reached. For all its failings, that it does so with the brilliance of one of our finest contemporary playwrights is reason enough to see it. With its classic portrayal of English institutions and education system it also, perhaps less justifiably, makes one kind of proud to be British.

Reviewed by jzappa 8 / 10

Where We Go To School Does Not Determine What We Will Become

The History Boys is a very very challenging film for any audience. One of these reasons is that it is driven by extremely eloquent conversations between younger and elder intellectuals, each conversation delving aggressively deep into the corners of conventional logic and subtexts and fleshing them out in what different characters arguably believe are the most truthful ways. Many characters are quite confident and extremely extroverted and the ones who are not so confident are defensively so. Alan Bennett's remarkably clear analysis of the human condition is intimidating.

The other reason is because the story is one beyond social judgment. Perhaps this is purposeful because being written, produced, directed, and acted by English people, class-consciousness is surely existent among them. But that's what I love so much about this film. The audience, in order to understand and enjoy it, must release themselves from the scrutiny of general culture over many, mostly sexual, aspects of life. The film is not about homosexuality, but homosexual goings-on exist prevalently in the story. It's also treated very nonchalantly, and many straight boys are free of any personal sexual burdens that would inhibit them from partaking. The very talked-about homosexual element of the film exists as the most direct example and also the core of the basis of the story, which is the pressure of society's judgmental and devastatingly interfering nature with many things that, if one were truly understanding, would not judge or interfere with. This extends to greater and more complex idealism in the script, such as the philosophy and meaning of education, the satisfactory or unsatisfactory pursuit and outcome of success, the importance of art and poetry, and the point of studying history.

I believe that The History Boys is an extremely important movie, and the fact that it lasted for a single week at a small theater here in Cincinnati is despicable and glaringly, stupidly contradictory to its message.

Reviewed by DesbUK 6 / 10

Witty observation on the English education system

The English duo of Nicholas Hytner and Alan Bennett last collaborated on 1994's Oscar and BAFTA winning THE MADNESS OF KING GEORGE. This 2006 collaboration abbreviates Bennett's own 2004 Royal National Theatre play into a fast- moving account of how a group of Yorkshire teenagers from a state school pass the now defunct Oxford/Cambridge entrance exam. This is England in 1983. It's the zenith of Thatcherism. It was also the year of the film EDUCATING RITA, in which a working class housewife betters herself through an Open University degree. Things have obviously changed in the country since the Victorian times of Thomas Hardy's JUDE THE OBSCURE, where university is not a thing for the working class.

But the social, political and cultural milieu of the era is kept in the background (it's much less evocative than THIS IS ENGLAND, made the same year and also set in 1983). This is as much a fantasy of education as DEAD POET'S SOCIETY. These are classes full of the expectational, bright and articulate. Bennett never really finds the authentic voice of the 18-year olds - they speak the words of older, wiser men. But the performances - Richard Griffiths, Stephen Campbell Moore and Frances De La Tour as the teachers tutoring them in various ways towards university and, amongst other a pre-stardom Domonic Cooper and James Corden as the students - are uniformly excellent. The dialogue is witty in its observations on the education system and the purpose of education. Bennett's own adaptation wisely drops the two flashes forward which opened the play's first and second acts (Campbell Moore's character as a TV historian in the present day).

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