14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
How can we demand such a sacrifice from a teacher?,
This review is from: Mr Holland's Opus [DVD]  (DVD)
The blasé will say that this is one more film on the life and retirement of a good teacher. One more and nothing else. They would be slightly wrong. This film is a lot more interesting and profound than that. First of all it becomes personal and poignant when his own son is discovered to be 90% deaf at birth. For a musician and music teacher tbis is a tragic blow, even if Beethoven became deaf in his life. Then it shows that a good teacher is not supposed to caress the students in the smooth way of things, but he has to be both exacting and demanding on one side and on the other side helpful in the effort the students have to do to eventually come to the pleasure of becoming able to play beautiful music. And it takes a tremendous effort on the teacher’s part to be that inspiring and ruthless guide who will teach rhythm and drumplaying to a black man who will die in Vietnam, sentiment and clarinet playing to the only daughter of a family who has no creative dimension, emotion and how to sing with her heart to a girl who would like to take her music teacher along with her to New York. But furthermore the film is also a vast trip from the sixties to the nineties, from Kennedy to – the unnamed – Clinton, with the Vietnam war at the back, Hair, Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Nixon resigning, Ford falling when walking down from a plane, Reagan and his famous Hollywood smile, and of course the severe cuts in education in the mid-nineties that led to dropping all artistic activities from the curriculum of the school. And we could go on and on with levels of meaning that avoid mish-mash sentimentalism. And yet the end is kind of too much. How can we imagine the school, the principal and the whole community who have rejected the man at sixty without more ado than for an insignificant incident come together to unanimously present him with a farewell present that should have asked months of secret preparation ? And that present means that this Mr Holland has sacrificed all his personal and musical potential for the sake of teaching music to kids, including his composing and his musical inspiration. This leads to the saddest fact of all : education is based on a frustrating dédication from the teachers. A dedication that verges onto sacrifice, of one’s own life and of one’s family’s life, and a frustration that stifles in the teacher what is his deepest and most insanely creative inspiration, which delivers him to retirement a hollow shell with an uncatchable ghost of a dead ambition. This film is thus very painful : as long as our school system will demand such sacrifices from its teachers it will lead to a deeply boring and frustrating education that will leave young people naked and unarmed in front of life when the real hardships of history come, and they always come back over and over again.
Dr Jacques COULARDEAU, Université Paris Dauphine, Université Paris I Panthéon Sorbonne