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The Browning Version Reviews

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Audrey L

Super Reviewer

September 14, 2009
Anguish,perfectly filmed and supremely portrayed by Albert Finney.
Zack F.
March 24, 2013
If you are going to adapt a fantastic play into a film, stick to the bloody script, and don't add in unnecessary swearing.
January 20, 2013
The film is carried beautifully by a classy mature performance by Albert Finney. It is not otherwise perfect and is rather politically correct as well as lacking a sort of realism that would have added bite and depth, but the personal side of the story is handled with great care.
Elaine M.
August 29, 2011
Magnificent beautiful masterpiece. This film will take you through so many emotions. Acting is perfect and story is heart tugging.
Zoom-in Analysis
February 13, 2010
The Browning Version is a film that aptly reveals pedagogical themes of in loco parentis, modeling and the pedagogical relation. Firstly the film takes place at a private school where, not only do the teachers have to supervise the kids throughout the day, but the school holds responsibility for them throughout the night as well. In this vein, the film reveals the parallels between a teacher and parent being very close as its is proven that the children's parents seem to be cheating on each other at home as well it is ironic that the teachers cheat on each other at the school. In loco parentis is meant to infer positive actions, however in this case the teachers cannot seem to understand the proper behavior and gravity of their responsibility being "in the place of" the parent. If the teachers are to be models for the children, they need to show it in their personal affairs as well. Van Manen (1991) states that as educators "with respect to a child or children, we must be able to analyze, grasp, and understand the child's situation [and]...act with respect to the child's situation in terms of our own situated relation to the child" (p.72). In The Browning Version Mr. Crocker-Harris cannot possibly be expected to relate to his students and understand their situation if he cannot come to grips with his own.
In regards to the theme of modeling, Bollnow states that "The child is forming him or herself according to the picture the educator has about the child and according to his or her trust in it." In other words, treat a child as he is and he remain that way, treat a child as he can become and he will become it. The main character Mr. Andrew Crocker-Harris treats his students in an authoritative, demeaning way and of course because of this they treat him in a similar way behind his back. The science teacher, Frank is mean to Taplow, immediately dismissing him and discluding him from his class, and so the children also follow and pick on Taplow. Conversely, it could be argued that the teacher copies the kids to gain their appeal, picking on Taplow is his way of gaining more clout with the students, in this way it reveals a pedagogical relationship taking on both forms, teachers modeling and learning from students and visa versa from the hidden curriculum.
The film is full of character full of paradox, in fact the central theme of the film to me is character and situational paradox. For example, Laura the wife of Andrew is bored in life yet she has a secret affair. She is in love with someone who doesn't love her and who favors the husband she is cheating on more than herself. She puts up a fašade that she doesn't care and yet is the most emotional character of all (for example she pretends she doesn't care about Andrew and yet can't resist leaving or missing his speech). The headmaster of a scholarly school stresses sport throughout the film. The science teacher Frank lacks disciple and emotion yet he is the only one who can show sympathy. The main character Andrew is full of the most paradox of all however. From the very beginning Andrew calls his marriage an "incompatible marriage," an oxymoron. Andrew is continually seen as a wimp or one with extreme humility, yet his persona as a teacher is the complete opposite or a fašade as a prideful authoritarian. He can speak many languages, yet is a man of few words. He demands respect but he doesn't seem to show much for his students. Andrew wants to help his student's lives but can't help nor fix his own. Bollnow continually speaks of the virtues of an educator, qualities such as love, hope, trust and patience. Andrew is seen to have all of these qualities throughout the film necessary to be a "good" teacher, but he fails to reveal them in his teaching. In the end, he feels he has failed his students but it is the people around him that are failures in their interactions with each other. Andrew concludes the movie being the only one who actually sheds his fašade (symbolically when he removes his master's gown in the final shot) because he shows humility in front of his students and stands up to the headmaster requesting to speak last. Only when he reveals himself do the children translate him and understand their relationship.

Rotten Tomatoes give this move a 80% rating

Zoom In Analysis will DISAGREE with this rating. The film is more deserving of a 7ish/10 I feel, because of its appeal to a slimmer audience. 8 out of 10 people I don't think would enjoy the film, whereas 7 out of 10 would respect its message, the terrific acting by Alfred Finney and its revelations about the personal lives and realities of being a teacher.
November 3, 2003
This was a film that really spoke to me where I was at the time. I was teaching Sunday school to a class of 7th graders. It was always a struggle to keep them interested in the material, to keep their eyes and ears open, for I believed that what I was teaching was the most important subject imaginable. I was teaching about Catholic faith, and I knew that such a miserable job had been done when I was in Catholic school at their age that I almost never considered it again. So to say that I felt tremendous pressure would be an understatement.

The beginning of the film follows a newly appointed language professor on his way to the posh British prep school at which he'll be teaching. After being introduced to some other professors, he visits what will be his class. It's the last day of the school year, and it's a typical group of boys, goofing around whenever they think no one will stop them (been there, done that). It's quite obvious that the new professor has no experience keeping discipline over a class, and the boys take advantage until the stodgy and severe Mr. Crocker-Harris (Albert Finney) enters. A mere look from him is enough to get all the boys back in their seats and in proper posture.

It becomes clear that Crocker-Harris deals with his students with a ruthless sarcasm and blatant disregard for the boys' understandable emotions. A boy who had laughed politely at Crocker-Harris' joke in Latin, which he could scarcely have understood, is called up in front of the class to be embarrassed publicly. As a "treat", the boys read from Sophocles in the original Greek, but Crocker-Harris takes over when it becomes clear that it's all Greek to them. His passion for the material shines through, for a few moments, before the class period, and the school year, end.

The rest of the film centers on Crocker-Harris, who comes to reflect on his ambitions when he began teaching, many years ago, and the sporadic and disappointing results of his career. He seems resigned to the fact that no matter what you do as a teacher, 99% of the time you will fail. At home, his marriage is a quiet failure, which again had started out with such potential. His wife (Greta Scachi), as she visits an American chemistry professor (Matthew Modine) for tea and sex, looks back at the man she married, young and idealistic, and curses the man he has become.

One student, Taplo, has grown to like Crocker-Harris, somehow. This is despite the fact that the professor subjects Taplo to extra time studying with him, and stands in the way of Taplo's fervent desire to be transferred to the Science department. As Crocker-Harris will be retiring after this year, he decides to buy his professor a gift: the Browning version of the works of Sophocles. When he presents it to him, and the professor reads the inscription in ancient Greek, which translates to: "God from above looks kindly on a gentle master," he breaks down in tears, for he has been anything but.

Now, convinced of the utter failure of his career and marriage, he is presented with a success, which paradoxically makes him feel even worse. He must struggle with his inability, not only to respect, but to be respected. For anyone who has been a teacher or student, this may well bring back memories.
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