Paul Hinshaw, Online English teacher at Acadsoc, Ltd.
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Music – a language of vibrations that do not see colour, race, gender, age or even culture. Unifying the masses, music can be viewed as the purest of languages comprising deep connections to each and every soul lingering the earth. For many, the chords of instrumentals have a healing effect, a broken heart is mended through the symphonies of violins and erhus. For that one person who spends all their time in solitude, music can be a companion, a friend, a provider and advisor. Somehow, music has been viewed by generations as the gateway to heaven and the test standard of pure innocence in its whole essence. Some cultures believe that only those with the purest of hearts are tasked with performing music and sharing it angelic capabilities with the rest of those who walk this earth. Yes, we all have our preferences and ideas, but music is that one aspect of ourselves that connects us more than any ideas, practices or beliefs ever will. There aren’t many musicals in production today. Many of them are modern renditions of past musicals where the elderly and young can share a laugh, a tear, an applaud and reflect on how they have lived their lives and how they plan to live their lives respectively.
The movie (which is in French) to be reviewed encompasses all that has been stated above and details how generations can come together and create something so beautiful and honest through music. How people can grow mentally, spiritually and even emotionally through the shared goal of music. This movie takes on a rollercoaster of feelings and insight on how the teacher can become the taught – as it stands, maturity is not a mature of age, but of heart and experience. Le Choristes: The Chorus.
If you are interested in a more inspirational movie, you may like the Pursuit of Happiness.
The story occurs at Fond de l’Etang, a boarding school located in the French countryside for boys who are troubled and struggling. During the mid-twentieth century, the school is run by the principal M. Rachin, who is an egotistical disciplinarian adopting the Isaac Newton’s third law as his mantra for the school, where “action – equal reaction”. This means that there are dire consequences for any boy who dares step out of line. Expectedly, this approach does not seem to be yielding tangible results as the boys are very mischievous in numbers. As a result of these unruly kids, the teachers don’t teach but are constantly looking out for what the boys will be punished for next.
On the 15th of January 1949, there is an arrival of the new supervisor, M. Clément Mathieu, a middle-aged man who is grasping at finding his feet in life after a series of failed prospects. Expectedly, the new supervisor does find the boys an unruly bunch, Mathieu does not believe in the school punishment policy, and as such, butts heads with Rachin while secretly undermining the “action-equal reaction mantra”.
Slowly, Mathieu’s approach of trying to match the discipline to the crime does have a positive effect on a handful of students. With the reluctant approval of Rachin, Mathieu begins a grander experiment of trying to transform the overall atmosphere within the school, a core within the experiment being to start a choir among his boys. This is a difficult task for him as he has failed on so many occasions to be a successful musician – in addition to the reluctant boys he hopes to influence. During this process, Mathieu focuses on two different students for two different reasons. Pépinot, a younger boy, seems to lack guidance and focus, and who always says he is waiting for Saturday when his father will pick him up, he who never does (something that so many boys from broken homes experience more often than not). And Pierre Morhange, an older student in the school, is the anachronism: quite introverted, but a victim to outbursts of isolated submissiveness – the devil with the face of an angel as the other teachers describe him. Behind the reason for his subversiveness, which Mathieu slowly learns, Morhange tries to conceal his passion for music, that of which he has an undisputed talent in.
Beyond overcoming the obvious obstacles of Rachin and the students’ scepticism and Rachin’s egotism, Mathieu has another challenge in newly arrived Pascal Mondain, a very troubled older boy with pathological practices whose presence in its entirety might bring upheaval in the whole of Fond de l’Etang. Over fifty years later, Morhange and Pépinot, who have not seen each other since that time and who did not spend that much time together while at school, are reading through Mathieu’s memoirs from his time at the school, which unmasks the reason why the two are privy to the memoir and the effect he had on their lives.[i]
Pierre Morhange: What about the solo?Clément Mathieu: Which solo?
Pierre Morhange: My solo.
Clément Mathieu: Oh. Your solo. No, there’s no solo. You don’t have a bad voice but no-one’s indispensable.
This quote brings chills when it is scrutinized on a personal level. It wreaks of the indifference of the world, no matter who you may be. Simply put, Clement was stating that it does not matter how good you are, nobody is irreplaceable so you may not get your way all the time.
Clément Mathieu: What are you doing?
Pépinot enfant: I’m waiting for Saturday. My father is coming to collect me.
Clément Mathieu: But it’s not Saturday today.
Pépinot is a broken child. His need for affection is seen through this statement. His hope for love and acceptance by his father or family finds him hoping each day was Saturday so he could see his father, someone who should be loving him by default. Most of us can relate to the need for love and acceptance by those we love.[ii]
These are just two of the most powerful quotes in this movie and the viewer can find much more throughout this impeccable foreign piece of art.
This movie is both moving and filled with lessons. Its recommendation stems from its ability to put pressure on us to not be subjective, but practice the art of humanism in order for us to help one another. Although it is in French, online English teachers can still benefit from such a powerful movie. Symphonies that stem from the hearts of the choir are so moving that one may find themselves shedding a tear because of such a powerful message found in it. “Love and acceptance trumps all” – that is the message one may find when watching this movie. Do not be reluctant to be open with your feelings to yourself when it comes to this movie – musicals exist to evoke emotion deep within ourselves, whether those emotions are hidden or we are not aware of them.
For anyone looking to improve their conversational English on platforms such as Acadsoc, this movie is recommended because it is so touching and on top of it all, it forces the viewer to express themselves – subtitles are a must if you want to understand everything in-between the harmonies and comedy. Music unifies better than anything in this world, it is the ultimate language of life – look at how it bridges the gaps between such generations.
At the 77th Academy Awards, The Chorus was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film and Best Original Song (the latter for “Vois sur ton chemin”, listed as “Look to Your Path”).
At the 58th British Academy Film Awards, the film was nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay (Christophe Barratier, Philippe Lopes-Curval) and Best Film Not in the English Language, and Bruno Coulais’ score was nominated for Best Film Music.
The film was also nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the 62nd Golden Globe Awards.
The 26th Young Artist Awards saw Jean-Baptiste Maunier nominated for Best Performance in an International Feature Film – Leading Young Performer, as well as The Chorus itself for Best International Feature Film.
In France, the film won Best Sound (Nicolas Cantin, Nicolas Naegelen, Daniel Sobrino) and its score won Best Music Written for a Film at the 30th César Awards, where The Chorus received a further six nominations: Best Actor (Gérard Jugnot), Best Debut (Christophe Barratier), Best Director (Christophe Barratier), Best Film, Best Production Design (François Chauvaud) and Best Supporting Actor (François Berléand).
In 2004, Bruno Coulais won the European Film Award for Best Composer; Gérad Jugnot was also nominated for Best Actor and The Chorus for Best Film. The film later received the Lumières Award for Best Film in 2005, as well as London’s Favourite French Film award in 2007.