This is actually a remake ;a first version -much more faithful to the book- was made in the early eighties by French TV .It had kept its title "L'Age Bête" .
I have always been a big fan of Boileau-Narcejac .Their best novels ,"Celle Qui N'Etait Plus " (Clouzot's "Les Diaboliques" ) "D'Entre Les Morts" (Hitchcock's "vertigo" ) , "Les Visages De L'Ombre " ,probably their masterpiece (David Eady's "faces in the dark" ) are essentially the novels "of the victim" (as opposed to Agatha Christie who wrote the best whodunits).
"L'Age Bête "(= an awkward age) is par excellence the novel of the victim;and in 2012,when teachers are assaulted by their students (and their parents),their book is more relevant than ever.
The novel has undergone some changes ,but not for the best.The title is irrelevant : if ,to become a man ,you've got to go through all that ,then what a brilliant future lays in store for you! Boileau- Narcejac depicted the hard transition from adolescence to adulthood ,but they did not make the young hero the headmaster's son and they did not make him a brilliant kid, with good prospects (as depicted by Berling Sr);like his pal, he was expelled from school ,and his rebellion, in a way,made sense ;a doctor's son ,he was fascinated by his older buddy ,who came from a much more modest background ;there's the rub: in this movie,the two students' relationship is hardly skimmed over:we may wonder why Berling Jr wants to accompany his friend in his dreadful descent into hell.
The story is given a "modern" treatment: the first scene depicts the kidnapping of the English teacher -all that happened in the class is passed over in silence ,particularly the teacher's lack of experience ,who faces defiant teenagers;she was actually a maths teacher ,and a diabetic to boot,but no matter-We know nothing of this young woman who spends half the movie bound and gagged (another implausibility),and is then reduced to a prop.
The plot was simplified ,and the suspense suffered accordingly : there's not the final unexpected twist,Boileau-Narcejac's trademark. Some sequences even verge on ridicule,particularly the fight in the river;the computer age could have renewed the screenplay -the story was written in the seventies-,but mobile phones, internet and emails are not fully exploited .
On the plus side, all that takes place in the forest is nicely filmed;on the other hand ,the score,using Beethoven' s "Seventh Symphony" or opera arias ,is ponderous .
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