"The enchanting calm of your mystery...Is there anything more beautiful than a dream? Is there any truth sweeter than hope? "
Les Choristes, known by American audiences as The Chorus, is an exceptional French film directed by Christophe Barratier. It was nominated for the 2005 Oscars for Best Foreign Language Film, but ended up losing to Spanish film Mar Adentro. The beautiful song, ¨Look to Your Path, ¨ was also nominated. Les Choristes may have went home empty handed, but the film did garnish a lot of critical appraisal, and rightfully so. It is a well told story, with interesting characters, and an inspirational message. I`m not very big on comparisons, but I just couldn’t help finding several similarities between this film and 1989`s Dead Poets Society. The storyline is pretty similar although this film is much more lighthearted and uplifting. I was a huge fan of that movie and it is one of my all time favorites so the comparison is a good one. Gerard Jugnot might not be Robin Williams, but his performance was still remarkable, and his character is worthy of being imitated by every professor or person who works with children around the world. We must never forget the influence or words our teaching can have in young minds and it is our duty to bring out the best in them in order to make this place a better world. Les Choristes is a wonderful small film with a powerful message, strong performances, and a great musical score. The screenplay was adapted by Barratier himself from the 1945 French film La Cage aux rossignols. The story does move along at an excellent pace and you are hooked from the very beginning with this interesting film. I loved every second of it.
The movie centers around a teacher named Clement Mathieu (Gerard Jugnot) who arrives at a boarding school named Fond de l`Etang in a small French town during the late 1940`s. This is no regular school, the students here are known for being troublemakers, and the headmaster Rachin (Francois Berleand) runs the place with a very steady hand. Rachin believes in the law of ¨action-reaction, ¨ which means that for every rebellious action by a student, he will receive an equal reaction (some sort of severe punishment). He believes that nothing good can come out of these kids and that they can only be controlled by fear. Rachin`s other assistants seem to go along at first with this method of teaching, but Clement has a different view. As soon as Clement arrives at the school he begins trying to teach the kids with a different method and opposes this ¨action-reaction¨ rule. Clement sees the good in these kids and understands it is only a matter of polishing their talents and believing in them. Clement himself is in the middle of searching for meaning in his life, a failed musician, he finds himself teaching these kids, and in doing so he discovers his true calling. He begins writing his own music and discovers that the kids can interpret it for him by forming a school chorus. One of his students, Pierre Morhange (Jean-Baptiste Maunier) is very talented, and despite being rebellious Clement finds a way to get him involved in music and makes him passionate about it.
Of course there is more to the story than just this. It is told in one flashback as one of the student`s reads Clement`s journal in voice over so the narration is from the professor`s point of view, but we also have a love story and other smaller plots unfolding before us. The story is very powerful, inspirational, and emotional. The characters are all very interesting and well developed. The performances are all very great, despite the fact that Jean-Baptiste wasn`t actually an actor but a choir boy. I think this was a plus for the movie because he had a great voice and the music was just touching. Gerard Jugnot was great in the lead role and Francois Berleand was the sort of villain this movie needed. We should always see the good in people and not expect the worst from them, especially from kids who are just discovering the world and realizing their own talents. I loved the musical score in this film as well, the songs were all beautiful. The movie moves at a very fast paced and it is less than 100 minutes long. You won`t regret this great film and I absolutely recommend it. Without a doubt it was one of the best films of 2004.