Fond de l'Etang is a boarding school for troubled boys located in the French countryside. In the mid-twentieth century, it is run by the principal M. Rachin, an egotistical disciplinarian whose official unofficial mantra for the school is "action - reaction", meaning that there will be severe consequences for any boy out of line. This approach does not seem to be working as the boys as a collective are an unruly bunch. In turn, the teachers don't teach, but are always watching out for the next subversive act from the boys. January 15, 1949 marks the arrival to the school of the new supervisor, M. Clément Mathieu, a middle-aged man who is grasping at finding his place in life after a series of failed endeavors. Although he does find the boys an unruly lot, Mathieu does not believe in the "action - reaction" policy, and as such, butts heads with Rachin while secretly undermining the policy. Slowly, Mathieu's approach of trying to match the discipline to the crime does have a positive ...Written by
The film was shot in the middle of summer which was hard for the cast to wear winter clothes since the scenes were supposed to be in winter (in January) . See more »
When the now-bandaged Maxence shows Mathieu around on his first day he shows him a wall with photos of the school benefactresses and the motto "Labor improdus omnia vincit" which is attributed to Virgil. But the second word is incorrect - it should read "improbus". Translations vary but it means something like "Persistent hard work conquers everything." See more »
Two Continental European films with campus setting are on show right now in town: Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar's "La mala educación" and French director Christophe Barratier's "Les choristes". However, the former deals with the devil which is pretty disturbing while the latter the angels that touches the viewers' heart and soul. It blows in new fresh air into the cinema world.
People may associate the film with the 1945 production "La cage aux rossignols". Yet, "Au revoir les enfants", "La gloire de mon père", "Le château de ma mere", "Nuovo cinema Paradiso" and the literature namely "Le Petit Chose" by Alphonse Daudet and the hugely popular series of René Goscinny's "Le Petit Nicolas" were rushing into my head when the film rolled on. They all share a number of common features: younger carefree days, reminiscence, scenic countryside, pastoral living etc, they are all ingredients of French fresh (salad) movie, warm, humane and unforgettable. The genre is perpetually popular and it is ever-lasting. Strangely the subject matter though is related to "To Sir, with Love", "Mr. Holland's Opus", they didn't come up to my mind immediately.
French people are capable of producing movies or books with nostalgic ideas, the power again captures the world's heart. A country with long history or brilliant history provides much space for artists, France is one of them. Perhaps the French have no incentive to push forward like the Brits or Americans or they are pessimistic about the future or they lack funds, many the French artists (of various art form) keep looking into history for inspiration. Many French global blockbusters are filmed in nostalgic background setting, "Amélie" is the one in the 50s or early 60s. Cruelly truthful is if we compare the development (in most areas) of the developed nations on the west and east Atlantic coasts, the UK and the USA are exactly more advanced.
Pierre, Pépinot, Le Querrec, spectacled Boniface and all the other children form not only a choir but an angelic choir. The boys' angelic voices has resounded inside my head for pretty long time. The angels rekindle Clément Mathieu's abandoned hope on music and hope again falls onto these young souls. On top of it, he is the unsung hero on the making of the world famous conductor Pierre Morhange. Mondain, apparently sexually harassed, is not a incurable boy but a boy in his quest for love. Mathieu wants to carry out his "experiment" on him. And the young boy knows the class tutor is a kind and reasonable teacher. His smile to Mathieu before he is pulled away by the police tells it all.
Mathieu believes in moral education (or educating children in love) which is entirely different from iron-handed Rachin's hard-line pedagogical conviction and administration. Should time be given, Mondain would find his way out from the excruciating self-destruction. Just a side thought: Hong Kong educators should have more thought on dealing with "problem students", from time to time what these young people need is a tender light guiding them onto a path which they can have satisfaction and security. Well, we are somehow regressing now.
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