My Favourite Foreign Film: Les Choristes

My Favourite Foreign Film: Les Choristes

On that very rare occasion when a teacher at school wheeled out the television from its hideaway cupboard, we students tended to sit up a little straighter in our seats, our moods instantly lifted by the thought that class would be cut short because we were about to watch something on the box instead. This happened in one French lesson during my GCSE years, and we were shown the heart-warming film: Les Choristes. It became an instant favourite amongst all of us, even though, as far as school TV goes, we only really had Bill Nye the Science Guy to compare it to. Even so, the story and the music of this film have stuck with me since that first viewing five years ago.

Mathieu teaches the boys choir and confidence

Set in 1949, Les Choristes is about a French supervising teacher, Clement Mathieu, who has a secret passion for writing music. The film begins with him starting a job at a school named Fond de l’Etang, and although the literal translation of this name is ‘bottom of the pond’, it is intended to signify the state of hopelessness the boys in attendance are considered to be in, i.e. ‘rock bottom’. Fond de l’Etang is run more like a penitentiary than a school; the strict headmaster calls for silence at all times and considers beatings and locking the boys up as the best methods of punishment for their behaviour. The boys who live at the school are either orphans or have come from poor or neglectful backgrounds, and so they spend a lot of time acting out, pulling pranks, and stealing, but only because they don’t really know any better. That is until Mathieu comes along and teaches them how to sing as a choir, as well as giving them guidance and the strong parental figure they all need.

It’s an inspiring film and shows how powerful music can be. Despite how they are first portrayed, the young boys at the school are actually very bright and decent kids, their petty behaviour misjudged and unfairly punished because nobody has taken the time to get to know them or to give them a chance. Through music, Mathieu gives them an opportunity they’ve never had; he makes them part of something to be proud of and in turn they become high-spirited and the atmosphere at the school changes considerably.

The film has humour as well as a really beautiful soundtrack and, as it’s only 90 minutes in length, it’s perfect for a pick-me-up on a rainy day.


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