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Friday, February 12, 2010

The Browning Version

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 façade 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 façade 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 façade (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.

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