The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie DVD
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Directed by Ronald Neame
Produced in 1969
Main Language - English
Countries & Regions - British Film
A charismatic Maggie Smith stars as an inspirational but misguided schoolteacher in 1930s Edinburgh in this adaptation of Muriel Spark's novel. It's the finest performance of her career, says Alex Davidson.
Films that focus upon schoolteachers can be very sentimental; films such as Goodbye, Mr. Chips, Dead Poets Society and Mona Lisa Smile all pay soppy tribute to the wonder that is the inspiring teacher. In the 1960s, however, some films questioned the image of the teacher; most famously, Lindsay Anderson’s If… depicted an anarchic view of the pedagogy, culminating in a massacre. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie continues this trend, depicting a devastating picture of how inappropriate education can damage those who learn from it.
Maggie Smith plays the eponymous protagonist, a Scottish teacher at a school for girls in the 1930s. Her love of art and beauty blinds her to the grim realities in the world, and she misguidedly praises the fascists out of her passion for the romantic vision she has of the Mediterranean countries. She imparts her views to her clique of girls who follow her around, lost in admiration for the eccentric teacher. However, when one of these girls dec ides to join the war effort and fight for Franco, the teacher is forced to confront the effects of her beliefs.
Smith, who rarely gets the great parts she deserves in films, gives the best cinematic performance of her career; at the start of the film, her charisma is incredible, and the audience can fully understand why her girls are so enamoured of her friendship, especially when she is compared to the stuffy, disapproving teachers around her. By the end of the film, however, when Jean Brodie starts having moments of self-doubt, Smith brings out all the pathos of this naïve woman, and the mood darkens from frivolous comedy to moving character study.
All of the cast are terrific (especially Celia Johnson in a rare film role as the fearsome headmistress), and although an appallingly inappropriate love song called “Jean” blares out over the end credits, it would take much more to ruin this film.
Alex Davidson on 4th May 2004
Author of 237 reviews
Based on Muriel Spark's best-selling novel, the film The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie earned a 1969 Best Actress Oscar for its star Maggie Smith. An inspiration to the young girls she teaches and a challenge to the 1932 Edinburgh school who retains her services, the headstrong Jean Brodie (Smith) encourages fiercely independent thinking in her 12 year-old charges, who she influences with her over-romanticised world view. As she engages in ongoing battles with the school's rigid heads and bewilders two men in love with her, Miss Brodie also faces the biggest trial of her life when her career and livelihood become threatened.
Publisher: Acorn Media
Length: 111 mins
Format: DVD Colour
Released: 2nd August 2010
Cat No: AV9779
- US teaser trailer
- US theatrical trailer
- Muriel Spark biography and bibliography