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Kristin Scott Thomas,
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Miss G. is seen smoking a filtered cigarette, something that was not really available at the time. See more »
Miss G, I wanted to thank you for lending me the book.
Did you read it?
Did you get caught?
No. And anyway, I'm not sure what all the fuss is about. I wasn't corrupted.
Good for you. Let them put that in their pipes.
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At a wealthy boarding school, a dangerous love triangle erupts into savagery when a repressed teacher targets a precocious aristocrat.
Tense and suspenseful, Cracks is a well-paced, carefully crafted period piece. It is about the consequences of creating insular environments which breed mean-spirited hierarchies and draw ill-motivated authority figures. Situations in which the authority figures empower, reward and smile upon petty tyrants because they share the same deviant mindset and orientation.
In this offbeat tale of hatred and hazing, the cloistered children of favored society engage in cruel conformity at an all-girls' school in rural 1934 England. The story focuses on an elite Brody set of girls who comprise the academy's token diving team. The girls are mentored by their vapid instructor and swim coach, Miss G. (Green). (An apparent tribute to Muriel Sparks's novel and film, The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie.) None of the students are really happy or normal. They are the issue of the minor gentry. Their absentee parents unceremoniously dump them off at St. Mathilda, and never return. Disposing of their kids frees the adults to pursue their lavish lifestyles. And the girls know it. The polite rejection, combined with a stifling parochial environment turns the kids into seething stew-pots of repressed self-doubt and resentment.
A titled Spanish heiress arrives. She is a precocious and cultured patrician. Of course the other girls retaliate. Fiamma (Valverde) becomes a magnet for their jealousy, licentiousness and rage. While most of the girls lament that their parents seem to have forgotten about them and will never bring them home again, privileged Fiamma is vocally confident that her stretch will be short. Fiamma enjoys lavish gifts and delicacies from home. She shares them with her classmates while regaling them with wondrous tales of travel experiences and folklore. This only make things worse.
Di Rutfield (Temple), the swim team captain, is at once overshadowed and out-performed. Fiamma outflanks her socially, culturally, intellectually, and most devastatingly of all, athletically. Di no longer sets the bar by which the other girls are measured. To the contrary, she must now measure up to it.
More perilously, Di has lost her favored status as the apple of Miss G's eye. Coveted, courted and pampered by the girls' diving coach, Di was bonded to her by a barely suppressed. mutual undercurrent of romantic and sexual high voltage. Upon Fiamma's debut, Miss G's attentions shift to the enigmatic new enchantress.
My own snobby boarding school wasn't Catholic, and it was well enough administered that there was a minimum of clique exclusiveness, hazing and cruelty. But oh my, do I ever recognize the personality of Miss G. She is a tortured closet lesbian, perpetually titillated by her juvenile charges. A bundle of insecurities and self-perceived inadequacies, Miss G. fortifies her ego by reveling in the matriarchal power or her position. She is quietly desperate, dangling on a smoldering time-fuse, and primed for an angry episode of sexually frustrated, catastrophic hysteria at the first hint of a substantial challenge to her authority.
Damningly, Miss G. is also a fraud who recites adventures from Mary Kingsley's Travels To West Africa (1897), claiming the experiences to be her own. Having been at St. Mathilda continuously since she was a schoolgirl, Miss G. convinces her students that she's a feisty, liberated explorer. Fiamma really has traveled however, and Miss G resents it. Gifted, independent, rebellious by the standard of the day, it's obvious Fiamma is more wordily and educated than Miss G.
Miss G. loves Fiamma, and she hates her. She wants to alternately kiss and slap the girl. Miss G. is drowning in a swirling infusion of hormonal captivation and intimidated insecurity. She veils her own closeted sexuality and verboten urges for Fiamma behind a tenuous mask of low key hostility. Churning under her increasingly strained visage lurks a poisonous cocktail of spite, infatuation, and abject lust. Tensions amplify. Fiamma, Di, and Miss G. square off. Together they plunge into a sensational maelstrom of bitter jealously, taboo coitus, madness, and salacious mayhem.
As in William Golding's novel Lord Of The Flies, there's an irony at play in Cracks. In Golding's work, which has inspired several films, schoolboys are sent away from England to protect them from war violence. Yet they promptly do battle with each other upon being shipwrecked. Becoming utter barbarians, they revert to the trees within hours of marooning.
In Cracks the girls study Christian values, social and intellectual refinement, self control and etiquette. When Fiamma smashes their authoritarian hierarchy, the schoolgirls' cultural and humanist graces evaporate. Collectively, they atavistically plunge to the lowest common denominator of bilious rivalry, sexual jealousy and brutality.
Cracks carries strong shadings of the Muriel Sparks novel and film, The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie, but it takes a dark departure. Tense, suspenseful, Cracks' gorgeous cinematography and top tier production values accentuate its thoughtfully plotted storyline. The result is a salacious firecracker of a picture! Cracks is a must-see experience for fans of such films as Heavenly Creatures, Loving Annabelle, and Picnic At Hanging Rock.
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