Thursday, 30 September 2010
A Bright Film with a Dark Heart

by David Hamilton (October 2010)

The film "An Education" is a coming of age story adapted from a memoir by well-known Guardian journalist, Lyn Barber, from her teenage life in 1961.(1) It is her recollection of being wooed and feted as a 16 year-old girl by an older man in his mid 30s.  She was a talented young girl with a lust for life. It is a "journey" film but her journey was along the wrong course and back on track again: a coming of age film. The film was released in October 2009 and critically acclaimed with eight BAFTA nominations, a nomination for a Golden Globe and numerous glowing reviews. more>>>

Posted on 09/30/2010 4:01 PM by NER
4 Oct 2010

You miss the point. The real target of this film is not Jews or Jewishness - even if the central character is a rather slimy, manipulatative individual who also happens to be Jewish. Instead it aims to discredit conservative British society as it existed at the time the film is set - the beginning of the 1960s - by portraying it as full of individuals who are either credulous and idiotic, the girl's father, or steeped in neo-Mediaeval prejudice, the headmistress.

The key scene is the one in which the headmistress shrieks out her condemnation of Jews as the people who "killed Christ." The notion that such views were in any way part of the mainstream in the UK even half a century ago is an absurdity, but by giving the impression that that might have been the case the film implicitly 'explains' the main character's actions and absolves him of responsibility for them. 

The film is a clever but ultimately rather nasty piece of work that disguises its real agenda through its adoption of a superficial style that is for the most part restrained and in its recreation of period atmosphere almost nostalgic. But the message is that when the central character moves a black family into a house occupied by an an elderly white lady with the explicit intention of discomfiting her and forcing her out that he is only treating her in the way that she - and the society in which she grew up - deserve.

7 Oct 2010
Send an emailKendra


I couldn't disagree more with your comments.  David in the film wasn't a "Brit" first, he was a Jew first. His identity wasn't English as were the other characters. His identity was Jew. As a matter of fact, he could have had the word "JEW" plastered over his forehead since that's how much the filmmakers threw that in our faces.

It's interesting you took issue with Emma Thompson's outburst. Since I hear this same comment by some people today (very infrequently, but frequently enough for me to notice), I don't think this was out of line for the time nor do I consider her representative of the rest of the British people. Obviously the other teacher didn't share her sentiment nor did the girl's own parents or David's social circle.  If the filmmakers wouldn't have constantly reminded us of David's jewishness, we wouldn't have even known he was. He didn't look it, sound it, act religious, etc. never went to synagogue, etc. 

In the article, David's Jewishness was central to his personality but not his behavior. In the movie, David's Jewishness was central to his behavior, but not his personality. Herein lies the difference. He was a scumbag Jew in the movie. In the article he was a scumbag who happened to also be Jewish.

11 Oct 2010

Hi Kendra,

Thanks for your comments. I've no problem with people disagreeing with me - that is what real 'diversity' is about, not the fake version peddled by the left which is just a disguise for their intolerance and attempt to enforce an orthodoxy.

As for the film I'll stick by what I say, though I certainly acknowledge that none of the other characters displayed the extreme anti-semitism of the Emma Thompson character. Indeed the girl's class teacher is exceptionally  sympathetic to her and quite explicitly unsupportive of her intent to marry for academic rather than racist reasons.

I haven't actually read the book and I would be interested to know if the 'Christ killing' outburst featured in it. My guess is that it didn't and that it was inserted during the scripting process for the film in order to give the film an - almost subliminal but still perceptible - ideological slant that is more to do with contemporary attitudes than those of 50 years ago.

17 Oct 2010

MIke, I'm not sure if either book has that comment in it, either.  There are two book versions of "An Education".

The film itself was based on an article Lynn Barber wrote which was published in the Guardian (here:

The director, Nick Hornby, saw the article and decided to make a movie.  Because of that interest, Lynn Barber started working on fleshing out her article into a full-length memoir; a book, while the movie was being filmed.  That book was published and released after filming on the movie ended.  (

Nick Hornby also wrote a book with the same title based on his screenplay which was released a little earlier than Barber's.  So, Hornby's book is his changed version which probably follows the movie's changes. ( )

Yes, it might be interesting to find out if Thompson's outburst was in Barber's book, too.  But, it wasn't Thompson's outburst that upset me, since we know people such as Thompson's character exist.

What bothered me was David's film depiction which was completely different from David's characterization in the article.  And, it was those changes-- not Thompson's outburst-- which have me agree with David Hamilton's assessment here.