The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie - DVD Review

'an incredibly rich microcosm, successfully examining what happens when the inspirational becomes the fanciful and the inspired become the knowledgeable'

The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie first turns up rather belatedly onto DVD next week, at a point where its wonderful star is best known for playing Minerva McGonagall in the Harry Potter franchise. Before Maggie Smith turned to wizardry though, she played the titular Miss Brodie in Ronald Neame's rather fantastic feature-length version of a Muriel Spark novel and a Jay Presson Allen play.

Blending in layer upon layer of plot and intense characterisation, Neame balances the seemingly simple idea of a teacher (Smith) who refuses to teach the standard curriculum, with much darker ideas of betrayal, identity, love and aspiration and turns The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie into something much deeper than it first appears.

Preferring 'beauty, art and truth' to anything her conservative school dictates, Smith's Brodie is initially our champion and hero as Neame explores her methods of challenging the system and the sensibilities she inflects on to her susceptible students. It's a heady start of revolution-like education and inspirational lecture and it sets the tone for the steady disintegration of Brodie and her unit.

In any other film, the plot developments in Miss Jean Brodie would be classed as 'twists' but here, they're so artfully managed they simply class as deep and transfixing character development. As Brodie moves more and more into a fantasy land which has no place for the 'conservative education' of her institution, Spark and Allen push her more and more towards needing to experience life through others, namely her gaggle of loyal girls who she believes she has tamed and inspired.

Smith, who won an Oscar for her turn, is wonderful as the neurotic lead who can't decide between lovers Teddy (Robert Stephens) or Gordon (Gordon Jackson), both of whom also excel in quietly supportive ways. Stephens in particular is drenched in enough layers of depth for several characters in weaker films and, despite our distaste for some of his actions, he might actually end up being the most recognisably grounded character in the entire piece.

By its conclusions, when Sandy (Pamela Franklin) starts subtly to come to the fore, Miss Jean Brodie has completely overcome its mid-point lull, blending entirely credible ideas of tragedy and sacrifice into its already brimful melting pot. Neame ends up having created an incredibly rich microcosm in his tiny Edinburgh school, successfully examining what happens when the inspirational becomes the fanciful and the inspired become the knowledgeable.

The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie is out in the UK on DVD from Monday 2nd August.

Look further...

'Miss Jean Brodie and her "girls" are truly the crème de la crème, and the movie hits every note perfectly' - DVD Verdict

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