On 5 October the World Teachers’ Day. Everyone in our lives has had the pleasure of dealing with professors able to broaden our views, become passionate about the subject and direct our future choices. Or having to relate to fearsome dictators able to make us spend the most anxious “nights before exams” forced not to sleep a wink for a last mad and desperate review before the test. For better or for worse, teachers play a major role in our society and in the memories of all former students. At the same time, the alchemy and the relationship that is created in a classroom, during the course of a school year, is extremely delicate and indissoluble at the same time.
Cinema has often wondered how to bring this component to the stage and has given us many films dedicated to the role of the teacher and his relationship with the pupils. The list is really long and we are sure that in the eyes and in the memory of every cinephile there are sequences and indelible moments attributable to the subject (who was terrified by Miss Trinciabue di Matilda 6 mythicalwho fell in love with the eccentric singing teacher played by Whoopi Goldberg in Sister Actor who can not refrain from a relationship of love and hate towards the ruthless professor of Whiplash played by JK Simmons). We therefore tried to bring order within the cinematic imaginary to focus our attention on five teachers we would have loved to have met in our lives. Five energetic, passionate, funny and enlightening professors who have had a great influence on us even though they are film characters (so we don’t dare to imagine how beneficial it could have been to spend an entire school season by their side). The occasion is obviously also to bring to mind as many films that we will never tire of talking about.
1. THE RUNNING TIME (1989)
It is certainly the most famous and popular title among those who have brought the experience of a teacher in relation to their class of students to the big screen. The one directed by Peter Weir is a timeless classic, a film that is at the same time powerful and balanced, capable of touching the right chords of both adults and adolescents. Robin Williams (amazing) lends voice and body to Professor John Keating, the literature teacher we all want to have: passionate, passionate, enthusiastic, energetic and able to give his students a different perspective not only to approach their studies, but above all to face the challenges of life. Released in 1989, The fleeting moment is a touching coming-of-age drama that seeks to cheer and praise the importance of uniqueness against all forms of bigoted conformism. The film was nominated for four very important Oscars: Best Actor (Williams), Best Director, Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay, managing to win only in the latter category.
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2. MONA LISA SMILE (2003)
Always considered as the “female version” of The fleeting moment, Mona Lisa Smile it is still considered today as one of the essential titles to thematize and tell the delicate bond that unites students to teachers. The film was immediately received with great warmth by the public: it cost about 65 million dollars, grossed over 140 million dollars worldwide and in the first days of release was the second highest grossing at the US box office just after the blockbuster by Peter Jackson The Lord of the Rings – The Two Towers. Unlike Peter Weir’s film, the professor played by Julia Roberts he does not teach literature but art history. His battle will be similar to that of Professor Keating but here, first of all, the challenge will be to provoke and broaden the horizons of views of the students, not only of their parents and of the faculty. The film is in fact set inside a prestigious women’s college characterized by its strict conservative morality fully embraced by most of the teachers and families of the students. The art lessons conducted by Professor Watson are not to be missed: provocative, captivating and with an almost infinite cultural value. Impossible to remain impassive to the beauty and charm of this material at the end of the projection: you want to (re) start studying.
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3. SCHOOL OF ROCK (2003)
After literature and art history, let’s now move on to a slightly more “recreational” subject. One of the best music teachers (and probably one of the best tout court) is called Dewey Finn and has the charisma of Jack Black. School of Rock it is an unmissable event for those who were adolescents in the early 2000s. Richard Linklater he managed to bring to the screen a professor who is as mad as he is irresistible, a lethal mix of sympathy, energy and vitality. Improvising himself taught by more than sensational coincidence, he will begin to pour out his frustration as a failed rock star by trying to create a rock band of kids with which to participate in a music contest. Black Jack is just perfect as well School of Rock it soon turns into an anthology of sequences engraved forever in the collective cinephile memory. The soundtrack ranges from The Who to Deep Purple, obviously passing through AC / DC, Metallica, Black Sabbath and many others. The famous one is even present Immigrant Song by Led Zeppelin. This is one of the few cases in which the usually reluctant band has allowed a film to use a song from their repertoire. To convince them, Richard Linklater filmed a sort of video message in which Jack Black, surrounded by a crowd of fans, literally begged the group to be able to give the green light to the use of the song in the film.
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4. HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN (2004)
From the moment we talk about teachers and school subjects, it is impossible not to bring to attention the school par excellence, the one in which everyone has dreamed of setting foot at least once in their life. Of course we are talking about the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The saga of Harry Potter has bewitched (literally) millions of fans around the world. It is a bit difficult to draw up a ranking of the most popular teachers, or at least choose one that we would like to have as a classroom teacher among those known within the rich parterre of professors. Surely the audiences would divide: those who adore Albus Dumbledore, those who prefer Professor McGonagall or those who would go out of their way to attend a lesson from the sinister Professor Snape. For a long series of reasons that concern the cinematographic taste of the writer, however, the Remus Lupine interpreted by David Thewlis it is probably the teacher who would occupy the highest step of this hypothetical ranking. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkabanfilm directed by Alfonso Cuaròn, is the bravest piece of the film saga. Thanks to his dark, gloomy aura and the horror and less childish tints introduced by the Mexican filmmaker, the characters (and the audience with them) begin to deal with much more grotesque mysteries that go well with the age of change that teenagers live on their own skin at that stage of life. Lupine is an extremely sensitive teacher, who does not hide his weaknesses, his fears but rather tries to teach his class not to be ashamed of their limits, of their insecurities: a teacher of life, even before that of Defense against the Arts Dark.
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5. SOUL (2020)
Finally, there is also space for animation cinema (given that on these pages we usually give margin to this cinematographic technique that we are so passionate about). Recently, Pixar Animation allowed us to meet one of the cutest and most sincere teachers that cinema has brought to the big screen. His name is Joe Gardneris a music teacher (this time “certified”, not improvised like Jack Black in School of Rock) disillusioned with life because he never managed to get a chance to try to show off his talent within the record market. Joe’s parable is as simple as it is powerful: he will experience incredible adventures, straddling the world of the living and those of the dead, which will lead him to learn much more than he ever taught. Thus, the teacher (of music) becomes a pupil (of life). Her guide is a restless soul (literally speaking), a pestiferous girl who has no intention of leaving the afterlife to start her life on earth. Soul it is therefore the demonstration that the poles attract: on the one hand an adult man who does not want to die, on the other a young girl who does not want to be born. Needless to say, everything will give life to a moving alchemy able to synthetically restore the delicate but at the same time stainless relationship that is created (or should be created) in every classroom and in every school class between teachers and pupils.
Soul, the review: A new masterpiece between passions and second chances