“One man can change the world with a bullet in the right place.”
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary notes that because “in the final scenes Anderson injects heavy doses of surrealism,” we “cannot tell if what we’re seeing is truly happening exactly as presented or if our crusaders… are fantasizing or Anderson is showing images that represent their wish fulfillment.” He asserts that while “the surrealism is excitingly audacious” at times:
… the effect is weakened during the final sequence given that it “looks like it’s just the visualization of someone’s imagination” and “we don’t feel that the bad guys are getting their due.”
Peary compares this sequence with the “surrealistic final scene in Jean Vigo’s Zero de Conduite (1933), Anderson’s inspiration,” which he argues “works as both dream and reality.”
With that caveat in mind, this film holds such significance in cinematic history that it’s a bit challenging to determine how compelling the storyline itself really is. While it’s morbidly gratifying to see the horrors of boarding school bullying called out rather than glossed over or romanticized:
… I agree with Peary that the final scenes are opaque and less-than-satisfying (and viewers should be forewarned they are especially disturbing given the ongoing mass shootings in schools since this film’s release). Perhaps the most intriguing — if underexplored — thematic thread in the film is that of homoerotic desire (Anderson was a closeted gay man), as epitomized in the scene showing a young boy (Rupert Webster) pulling a sweater over his head while watching in awe as an older student (Warwick) shows off on the parallel bars.
It’s a well-edited sequence that hints at the film’s potential to explore even more challenging themes than simply brutal (albeit necessary) rebellion against oppression.
Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:
(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)