The Chorus / Les Choristes (12A)

Written by Philippe Lopes-Curval and Christophe Barratier, Directed by Christophe Barratier
Screening at FACT from 25th March-7th April 2005

Reviewed by Adam Ford

You'd been forgiven for thinking you've seen it all before. There's this school, right, and despite the teachers being really strict the pupils fight in the dorms and run riot in the corridors. But then this idealistic new teacher joins, and his/her slightly unconventional methods slowly win him/her the attention and respect of the pupils. The Chorus was apparently 'inspired' by a 1945 film, but most of us know the shtick from stuff like Dead Poet's Society, Mr. Holland's Opus and Mona Lisa Smile to name but a few. The pattern goes fear, mild rebellion, happiness, let down, final triumph over adversity bit.

This time we're in France, and a reform school/prison camp for children with what might be called 'behaviour problems'. These problems seem to include not wanting to sit still and do arithmetic when it's a nice day outside and not taking too kindly to being slapped about by the headmaster. When affable 'failed musician' Clément (Gerard Jugnot) takes over as a supervisor, he discovers that music is what's needed to soothe these savage beasts. Hmmm...I think I remember from my days as a boy soprano that the tough kids didn't so much as admire my singing talent as my punchbag potential, but hey, this is only fiction.

Maybe I'm being a bit harsh, because there is actually a lot to admire about The Chorus. Every single actor puts in a faultless performance, and the singing really is angelic if you like that kind of thing. It's just that I didn't buy the central premise of this latest spin on what seems to be the only possible school story ever, so everything else fell flat. But if you haven't seen a film from this blueprint or you really like choral music then by all means go!