Saturday, 26 October 2019

High School (1969)

High School
This review of Frank Wiseman’s movie “High School” is heavily influenced by the fact that I have been watching it and am writing this review from a hotel room in China. This mean that I do not have the Book at hand and that I cannot use Wikipedia (or Google for that matter) to search out information on this movie. My upload will probably have to wait till I am back in Europe.

I seem to recall from the Book that “High School” is considered a criticism of the educational system, that students are taught useless things in a dysfunctional environment.

Well, I had a hard time recognizing that. It rather seems like a fairly objective portrait of the everyday life at a regular high school with all the various thing that normally goes around at such a place. It was almost boringly normal. In small clips, each of a few minutes, we see scenes from the daily life at the school. Classes being taught, students getting advice, some getting detention, shows being staged and so on. There are no direct connections between the various vignettes, no characters carrying through, except that the principal shows up a few times. They are just scenes from the school.

None of the scenes are particularly condemning. The teachers are trying to teach. The students are what students normally are. Some has a rebellious streak, which is common enough. Some teachers are prone to droning which is also common enough. There is no cruelty on display. When a teacher states that only in the dictionary does “success” come before “work”, it is just stating the obvious in an attempt at motivating the class.

The only part I resented was the discussions with the counsellor on how much parents could afford to pay for college tuition and how that limited the options. Where I come from this is very bad style and access is based on merit and nothing else, but I understand that in the reality of this high school this is standard practice and the issue is treated matter of factly and not as an item of particular concern.

The purpose of the movie I can only see as a time capsule, documenting a high school in 1969. It is curious to watch, many things actually being much the same as they are today, and at the same time different as it is rooted in its time.

Maybe I am missing a bit of drama or something controversial. Eventually it started getting boring watching daily life play out. But then again, it is comforting to see that daily life can play out without big drama and that people are just people at any time.

Considering how unexceptional this is, I am just wondering why it is on a list of 1001 movies you have to watch before you die.



  1. I've been looking for this movie and am not finding it through none of my usual sources. Even buying the DVD does not seem to be an option since it's only in Region 2. I tend to like this kind of hole-in-the-wall documentary but maybe I shouldn't regret having to miss it!

    My TV is broken. This accounts for my absence from Flickers over the last few days.

    1. I may be able to provide you with a version of it. It was part of a package of 14 documentaries by Wiseman. Let me know if you want it. It is not bad, it is just sort of passive.