Lessons from Alan Bennett

Went to see The History Boys tonight, the movie. Saw the play some time back and was very moved by it, and so when I got the times wrong for Children of Men, I was not unhappy. I’ll make no comment on whether it was a faithful, or necessary adaptation of the play we saw at the National Theatre. I will say that it was entertaining, is an exceptional piece of writing, I’m glad its available for all to see, and that I’d like to share five things I took from it. They may not make a great deal of sense in isolation, but please, please go see the film. Then you’ll understand.

(1) The whole Words/Language/Literature thing. When I was younger I thought I loved these things, and said so. Hector’s frustrations at the boys for thinking that they did – and Felix’s complete misunderstanding of who and what Hector was – struck a chord. I realised a while ago — it’s not that I love words, language, literature, writing… I love stories. It’s not the point Hector was making, Hector was talking about knowledge, I think, about acquiring knowledge, having natural curiosity, trusting that understanding would come (“Most of the things they write about haven’t happened to us yet, sir!” … “but they will, and then you’ll have the antidote… poetry!”)… but still.

(2) They call Felix the advance warning. The need for substance beyond… well, sheen. Felix was fairly one-dimensional. But a warning for those whose ambitions exceed their character.

(3) Love. The whole inoculation speech. Utterly brilliant. Really made sense. The idea that a few broken hearts provide a defense against “half a lifetime” of loneliness. Cynical, perhaps. But spoken by Hector, it was the tragedy of the moment that gave it poignancy.

(4) History is just one f****** thing after another. Rudge is a genius.

(5) “The best thing about reading,” says Hector (and here I start to paraphrase) “is when you read something, find a thought, an idea, that was special to you… and its from a complete stranger. It’s like they are shaking your hand.”

One thought on “Lessons from Alan Bennett”

  1. lovely movie – made me fondly reminiscent for the days of Oxbridge entrance and PASF’s fond pat on the head.

    MUCH better than Children of Man which is a collossal waste of space.

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