Blog Directory CineVerse: You can't teach an old instructor new tricks

You can't teach an old instructor new tricks

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

In 1951, a film adaptation of Terence Rattigan’s 1948 play The Browning Version was released that garnered high praise for its fidelity to as well as expansion beyond the source material. A 1994 remake starring Albert Finney contemporized the tale and introduced the story to a new generation. A close examination of the latter edition was undertaken by our CineVerse group last week; here is a roundup of our primary discussion points (click here for a listen to a recording of our group discussion).

In what ways is Andrew humiliated throughout the story?

  • He is forced to leave the school due to a change in the curriculum, although his health condition is cited by the school as the main reason.
  • His wife is cheating on him with another teacher, and many around the school are aware of this possibility.
  • He is denied a pension by the school.
  • He is disliked by most students and referred to as the “Hitler of the fifth form,” which he is embarrassingly informed about by his teacher replacement.
  • The headmaster asks him to deliver his graduation farewell speech first, not second, because it is feared that his speech will be anticlimactic compared to that of the more popular teacher who is slated to give the second speech.
  • His wife Laura embarrasses him in front of a table of peers by lying about Taplow’s reasons for gifting Andrew the book.

Can you cite examples of how Andrew is uplifted via generous gestures from others?

  • The teacher replacing him compliments him and shows Andrew respect.
  • Two past students say hello to him and one offers financial guidance.
  • Taplow gives Andrew the “Browning version,” a rare and special translation of Agamemnon, and inscribes a moving personal message inside.
  • Frank, his wife’s lover, feels sorry for Andrew and tries to console him with comforting words and advice.
  • Andrew is given a long round of applause by students, teachers, and attendees at the graduation ceremony following his apologetic speech.

Major themes

  • The passing of an era, inevitable obsolescence, and replacing the old and archaic with the new. Andrew and the subjects he loves are being ushered out, to be replaced with a younger teacher and more contemporary languages and studies. He’s become a fossil of a bygone time and no longer fits within the modern world.
  • How failure and success can define your life and its value if you allow them. Andrew regards himself as a failure in academia, marriage, and life overall. Unwilling or incapable of showing emotion or expressing kindness or empathy, he’s unpopular, unloved, and disrespected by many around him. This story suggests the pitfalls of attempting to gauge your self-worth by using strict concepts of failure and success, and the benefits of revamping this mindset and finding joys and triumph in even the smallest acts and gestures, such as Taplow’s bestowing of the Browning book and tableau’s inscription within it.
    • According to LitCharts: “The quote (in ancient Greek) reads: “God from afar looks graciously upon a gentle master.” Taplow thus offers Andrew a redemptive perspective on his life, suggesting that he deserves the respect and understanding of a master and that his lack of sociability was more a reflection of his incompatibility with society’s strict definition of success than some deeply embedded personal failure. In fact, as the quote is both well-chosen and transcribed perfectly in Greek, the inscription represents a quiet triumph of Andrew’s teaching… Rattigan shows how a shift in perception—a freeing up of the restraining characteristics of a particular kind of success—empowers an individual to take control of their own world; and though it’s not certain Andrew will follow through on this powerful shift, the possibility is suddenly there where previously it wasn’t.”
  • You get what you give in this life. Andrew’s famous words, “you have obtained exactly what you deserve – no less, and certainly no more,” prove karmically fitting in describing the state of his life as the story progresses.
  • Sometimes it’s the simplest and smallest events and details in life that can make the biggest difference. Taplow’s kind deed triggers major changes: It causes Laura to, like Clytemnestra, wound her husband, Frank to reject Laura and attempt to befriend Andrew, and Andrew to separate from Laura.
  • Acceptance versus rejection, or popularity versus disfavor. Frank is an instructor beloved by his students with a fun and exciting approach to teaching; Andrew, a teacher who is unliked and secretly disparaged by most of his pupils, is stodgy, rigid, and intractable in his educational style.

Similar works

  • Goodbye Mr. Chips
  • Dead Poets Society
  • The Emperor’s Club
  • The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
  • Mr. Holland’s Opus
  • To Sir With Love

Other films by Mike Figgis

  • Leaving Las Vegas
  • Internal Affairs

  © Blogger template Cumulus by 2008

Back to TOP