Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

1961, 115m, Maggie Smith
This is an extraordinary drama, set in a girl's boarding school in Edinburgh. It has an entirely British flavor. Maggie Smith as a charismatic teacher, Jean Brodie, gives the performance of a lifetime. Set during the Spanish civil war, she "inspires" one of her students to run away to join this war and to lose her life. She is perhaps intended to be an epitome of charismatic leaders, capable of leading their unthinking flocks down the lane of dubious causes. Indeed, as could have been common in her time, she admires Mussolini and Franco. Her fault would be to promote their own persona rather than empowerment and independence of her students. The film is a textured and a bitter parody of totalitarian leaders whom Brodie admires--in her awkwardly angular grandiose gestures as well as the brilliant unstoppable flow of words, she is a fascist of the classroom. I am reminded of Chaplin's film on the theme. This is a great film which Ebert missed out in his compilation.
The Great Dictator: NYT Review


Anonymous said...

An intriguing irony in the story is that Miss Brodie's traitor actually learned best from her teacher- and she made a choice of her own as she learned.

Compared to this terrific school drama, other popular movies like "Dead Poets Society"(1989) look like child's play.

S. M. Rana said...

The "traitor" has a hard time matching Smith histrionically.