In 1929 French Indochina, a French teenage girl embarks on a reckless and forbidden romance with a wealthy, older Chinese man, each knowing that knowledge of their affair will bring drastic consequences to each other.
Tony Leung Ka Fai,
Based on the award winning play by Julian Mitchell, the film explores the effect of Public School life in the 1930's on Guy Bennett as his homosexuality and unwillingness to "play the game" turns him eastwards towards communist Russia. Written by
Craig Wood <firstname.lastname@example.org>
This film is both visually and dramatically impressive. From the outset, we are treated to lavish cinematography of Eton College and its grounds and the surrounding countryside. This is contrasted with the drab scenes of Moscow from where Guy Bennet recounts his story. Everything is bathed in a golden glow, backed up by the sound of boyish voices singing hymns (the title itself comes from popular school hymn 'I vow to Thee my Country'; which was sung at the funeral of Princess Diana in 1997).
This contrasts starkly with the brutality of the school's disciplinary system, where one boy is so ashamed of being caught in a homosexual act that he hangs himself in the school chapel. Those who question the school's code become outcasts, such as Bennet and Judd, unless they are 'useful' in some way - ie when Judd is needed to prevent an unpopular boy becoming head of house.
One important fact I noticed is that you hardly ever see a master in the school, and you never see the boys in lessons: this shows Eton not as merely a school, but as a microcosm of society with its own specific hierarchy.
There is interesting character development: Bennett, initially a philanderer who takes nothing seriously, eventually realises that he is a confirmed homosexual and begins to understand Judd's vision of a perfect society possible through communism ('not heaven on earth, but earth on earth - a just earth')Similarly Judd realises that sometimes it is necessary to sacrifice one's principles for the greater good.
There is a lot about this film that is hackneyed - the bullying, sadistic prefects, the angelic boys with floppy fringes singing chapel anthems, the stock rebellious phrases etc, (and I won't even mention Guy Bennet's ludicrous old-man makeup)but overall it is a beautiful piece of cinematography with some good acting from the young Mr Everett and Mr Firth.
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