The History Boys


in Daily updates, Films and movies, Oxford

The Grog Shop, in Jericho

North Americans trying to understand Oxford, as a British cultural and social institution, should go see The History Boys, while it is still playing at the Phoenix. If that sounds like an assignment, take heart: it is really very funny, even if you cannot appreciate all the regional humour. It will certainly leave you looking at your own position a bit differently, though I can see at least three general kinds of lessons you might take from it. I am not going to list them.

Comparisons I have heard made to Dead Poets Society are both apt and entirely wrong. That film is a reflection of two cultures: American east coast boarding schools and Hollywood filmmaking. Substitute both English elite schools and British comedy, and you might be talking about similar vehicles for the delivery of very different references.

Watching this film here was much like watching The Rocky Horror Picture Show in full costume, singing along and throwing rice. The film may not reflect reality directly, but it throws a kind of fun slant on it that allows you to position yourself within the public statements being made. The very last scene is also quite clever.

One quick comment, in closing: in North America, you would never see a film with a good six or seven minutes of all-French dialogue. And if you did, the proportion of the audience laughing at the jokes would probably drop off sharply. While my French has never been rustier (a long decline, dating back to elementary school with an upward blip during my time in Quebec), I could grasp more than enough to be laughing along.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Rob October 22, 2006 at 11:40 pm

I heard it was nothing like as good as the play. Trailer’s I’ve seen indicated that it has been a little ‘Notting Hill’ed.

Milan October 23, 2006 at 12:19 am


I cannot comment on the play, but I can stress again that seeing the film in Oxford was a theatrical experience, in its own right.

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