I hadn’t thought of The Chorus, or Les Choristes, since it premiered in 2004. At the time, I wanted to see the film, but never got around to it. I’d completely forgotten about it, until the DVD caught my eye on an Amazon sale. I did a rare thing, and purchased a film without seeing it first. I wasn’t disappointed.
The film happens in a boys’ boarding school for ‘difficult children’ in France of the 1950’s, and it tells a story of a failed musician Clément Mathieu (Gerard Jugnot), who arrives to take the job of a new supervisor. It seems unlikely that such a character – ordinary, sympathetic and little sad man – could get the unruly bunch of kids in line. The disciplinary principal, Rachin, rules with a motto of ‘Action – Reaction’, and punishes the kids relentlessly for stepping out of line. Mathieu manages to arrange the boys into a choir, and, at least for a some of them, changes their lives for ever.
Despite the dark setting of the film, it comes out as a light, almost a serene story — like a sunny Sunday morning. Perhaps because of the incessant exposure to Hollywood productions, the film as a whole seemed a little undramatic, but only in retrospect. Mathieu seems to simply glide through the events, cleverly overcoming all obstacles and experiencing only minor bumps on the way. While viewing The Chorus, the evenness of the ride was even refreshing; the story is truly profound and much larger than life, but it is a truly pleasant experience to watch. The target audience of the film is a little hazy; if aimed at a younger audience, due to the harshness of the life described, I can understand the choices made. As an older viewer, I did expect a little more contrast between the light and the dark of the film. Then again, as a first full feature directed by Christophe Barratier, the lack of epic emotions can possibly be forgiven.
The music in the film is divine and more than just makes up for anything the film might otherwise be wanting. The kids are singing as the choir for real and the supporting characters are fun to watch as it’s evident they’re truly enjoying the experience. The singing of then 14-year-old Jean-Baptiste Maunier as Pierre ”angel face” Morhange, the focus of the film, is nothing short of amazing; the adult cast is a sweet mixture of dramatic acting and droplets of comedy, sometimes almost unintentional. Perhaps because of the lack of exaggeration, The Chorus has a taste of the real world in it. I confess I’m biased, because films related to arts always strike a chord (no pun intended) with me. Nevertheless, I recommend this film for anyone. May be best viewed on a lazy Sunday morning.