All Over The Map (jemck) wrote,
All Over The Map

The scariest thing I've seen in the cinema in ages

You know what I mean about scary, don't you? Dry mouth, sweaty palms, pulse accelerating, hollow sinking feeling in the pit of the stomach. Yes, that's what I was feeling.

No, it wasn't a horror film, I don't do those. I was watching eight sixth-form lads at a provincial Yorkshire grammar school sitting their Oxford Entrance exam, in The History Boys. It's set in 1983, and these chaps are taking the exam after their A levels, doing what was known as seventh term entry. I did fourth term entry, ie in the first term of my upper sixth year, in 1982, at a provincial grammar school on the south coast of England. So that would put me and these fictional candidates in the same year group - only my lot did the special lessons and exam preparation on Wednesday aftenoons instead of sport through the lower sixth, rather than in one intense term.

It's a film written by Alan Bennett, so I expected spot-on observation, elegant yet accessible writing and insight into the human condition that teeters on that fine line between cruelty and compassion. The cast looked excellent, known and unknown, so I was expecting vivid characters brought fully to life, even in the smallest roles. Yes, I was well satisfied on all counts there.

What I really, really didn't expect was to be taken back so astonishingly vividly to all the awful apprehension and unexpected exhilarations of the whole roller-coaster process. It was twenty five years ago. No, just at the moment, it feels like it was yesterday.

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