High School Music Director Karen Carey, puts on a concert every two years at the Sydney Opera House. She insists upon a demanding repertoire, and the participation of all 1200 girls in the school. Not everyone share her passion.
At a Sydney girls School, Music Director Karen Carey prepares her young students for a concert at he Opera House. Believing in the trans-formative power of great music, Carey insists upon a Classical repertoire, sets a dauntingly high performance standard and requires the participation of every girl in the school. But not everyone shares her passion. Mrs Carey's Concert is about music making and coming of age, about talent and courage, compliance and rebellion. About those prepared to open their minds and hearts to what the world has to offer ... and those yet to discover the potential within. A feature documentary by Bob Connolly and Sophie Raymond Written by
The various internet movie reviews (and the entirely disingenuous DVD cover) suggest MRS. CAREY'S CONCERT is some kind of "exhilarating feature film experience". I had to double-check to see if I had watched the same show.
The movie I saw, a fly-on-the-wall documentary, is more an effective examination of the processes of indoctrination employed by teachers at a private girls' school. Perhaps it's due to the power of dramatic archetypes that critics and viewers alike stopped watching the story that was, and inferred something else entirely. I'm not sure.
I didn't see "determination" or "the power of education to transform lives". I saw bullying and threats, as the teaching staff attempted to shoehorn off-the-rack notions of music into the minds of their callow pupils.
The one notable exception, Iris, has been described elsewhere as "truculent" and "a villain" for no other reason than refusing to conform. Her crime seemed to be simply stating the truth of her feelings: that she was not interested in participating in the concert. What the hell is wrong with that? In almost any other dramatic context, Iris would be considered the hero.
The privileged high school students---appropriately immature and unworldly---are patently unable to appreciate the deeper themes and emotions at the heart of classical music. Yet, are ruthlessly intimidated; if only to the point of appearing as if they do, just to make the intimidation stop.
Emily, the competent violinist at the centre of the story seems to be singled out for additional verbal water-boarding for no other reason than that she is Asian. All of her ability and talent is brought to the school on the back of her own circumstance and dedication; I'm puzzled how anyone could think the teachers should take the credit for it.
With the focus of the two year-long narrative being wholly on the destination (rather than the journey), it's no wonder the final performance is so bereft of joy, especially from the titular Mrs. Carey. By the end of it all, I didn't see kids transformed by the perseverance of one woman. I saw kids who simply seemed to be happy that the whole thing was finally over.
It's impossible to watch this film and not invoke Chris Lilley from ANGRY BOYS or SUMMER HEIGHTS HIGH. Nonetheless, the documentary is recommended viewing... just not for any of the reasons stated in the reviews or the marketing.
To me, MRS. CAREY'S CONCERT demonstrates two things. Firstly, everything that is wrong with the education system, especially private education. Secondly, considering the comments, the insidious power of brainwashing.
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