Book excerpt

The History Boys: The Film

Alan Bennett; With an Introduction by Nicholas Hytner

Faber & Faber

The History Boys: The Film
THE HISTORY BOYS: THE FILMThis shooting script includes some scenesthat were cut from the screenplay in the editing 
EXT. STREET. DAY. 
Posner, a seventeen-year-old boy, is cycling towards school, headphones on, listening to some Ivor Novello ('I can give you the moon', say). It is summer, mid-1980s. 
He stops outside a church, where there is another bike in the porch. He waits. 
 
INT. CHURCH. DAY. 
Inside the church Scripps, also seventeen or eighteen, is just taking Communion, the only other communicants a couple of old ladies. Scripps frowning in prayer. 
 
EXT. CHURCH PORCH. DAY. 
Posner waiting in the porch as Scripps comes out.POSNERWill that do the trick, do you think?Scripps pulls a face and gets on his bike.SCRIPPSWe're about to find out.EXT. SCHOOL. DAY. 
A large city grammar school in Yorkshire (boys only, ages eleven to eighteen), possibly on the outskirts of the city, with its own playing fields, tennis courts, etc. 
A milk float waits outside the entrance. 
Posner and Scripps cycle up as an old car pulls up. Scripps stops by the milk float, which is driven by Lockwood.SCRIPPSLet's get it over with.As they go towards the school buildings Akhtar gets out of the car, which we see has his father and mother and various brothers and sisters in it too
 
INT. CORRIDOR OUTSIDE HEADMASTER'S STUDY. DAY. 
Various boys (and their parents) standing around, none of them in school uniform. They are all seventeen or eighteen, and they are waiting for their A-level results. 
Posner, Scripps and Lockwood are joined by the other History Boys - eight of them in all. They are all very bright, with the possible exception of Rudge, who compensates for his inarticulacy by excelling on the rugby pitch. Posner is Jewish, a late developer. Scripps is a budding writer, wry and articulate. Lockwood is loud and good-natured. Joining them are Timms, who is a merciless piss-taker; Akhtar, who is seriously clever, small and bright-eyed; and Crowther -- reserved and easygoing. 
Fiona comes out of the headmaster's office with the list, which she pins up. She is the Headmaster's secretary, an object of almost universal desire. 
Some rush but with an attempt at cool. All the Boys are pleased, with Rudge showing it less than the others. Dakin saunters up, the last of the History Boys. He is supremely self-confident, and seems to be intimate with Fiona.SCRIPPSAre you not going to look? 
DAKINI got mine last night. 
He smirks at Fiona. 
SCRIPPS 
I bet you did. 
TIMMSJammy sod.The Headmaster appears as Akhtar goes to tell his family.HEADMASTERLockwood. Why are you dressed as a milkman? 
LOCKWOODWorking, sir, for the holidays. 
HEADMASTER 
As a milkman?He looks pained.After the holidays you will be coming back to try for Oxford and Cambridge. Meanwhile try and do something fitting. 
POSNERI'm in a bookshop, sir. 
HEADMASTERGood, good. 
CROWTHERI'm on the bins, sir. 
TIMMSBouncer, sir. 
AKHTARLavatory attendant, sir. 
DAKINGigolo, sir.The Headmaster winces and retires. 
Hector has meanwhile come up behind the group at the noticeboard with Mrs Lintott. Hector is the staff-room maverick, fifty-five and portly. He teaches English. Mrs Lintott (Dorothy) is a history teacher, also in her mid-fifties.HECTORDorothy. Boys, well done! So. We shall be meeting again after all. 
BOYS(affecting resignation)Yes, sir.HECTORAt school, you see, Dakin, you don't get parole. Good behaviour just brings a longer sentence. You poor boys.The Boys disappear down the corridor. Hector looks after them.'The happiest youth, viewing his progress through What perils past, what crosses to ensue Would shut the book and sit him down and die.' 
Congratulations, Dorothy. You must be very pleased.EXT. SCHOOL. DAY. 
Titles and credits. 
As the autumn term begins, boys of all ages arrive; teachers get out of their cars; the History Boys, now in uniform, greet each other. Hector roars through the school gates on his motorbike. 
 
INT. MRS LINTOTT'S CLASSROOM. DAY. 
The first lesson of the new term. Mrs Lintott and the eight Boys.MRS LINTOTTYou are entitled, though only for five minutes, Dakin, to feel pleased with yourselves. No one has done as well -- not in English, not in Science, not even dare I say it, in Media Studies. And you alone are up for Oxford and Cambridge. So. To work. First essay this term will be the Church on the eve of the Reformation. 
TIMMSNot again, miss. 
MRS LINTOTTThis is Oxford and Cambridge.You don't just need to know it. You need to know it backwards. Facts, facts, facts.With a groan, pulling textbooks from their bags, they set to work.INT. HEADMASTER'S STUDY. DAY. 
The Headmaster is talking to Mrs Lintott.HEADMASTERThey're clever but they're crass, and were it Bristol or York I would have no worries. But Oxford and Cambridge. We need a strategy, Dorothy, a game plan.MRS LINTOTTThey know their stuff. 
HEADMASTERBut they lack flair. Culture they can get from Hector, and history from you ... but (I'm thinking aloud now) is there something else ... 
MRS LINTOTTProperly organised facts are ... 
HEADMASTERThis is Oxford and Cambridge, Dorothy. Facts are just the beginning.Fiona has come in.Think charm. Think polish. Think Renaissance Man. Leave it with me, Dorothy. Leave it with me.He goes back to his desk and takes out Irwin's application with his photograph from beneath his blotter. 
A knock at the door.Come.Wilkes is in gym shoes, tracksuit bottoms: plainly the PE master.Wilkes, ah yes. An innovation to the timetable. PE. 
WILKESYes, Headmaster. 
HEADMASTERFor the Oxbridge set. Surely not, you say. But why not? This is the biggest hurdle of their lives and I want them galvanised. 
WILKESGalvanised, yes, Headmaster.Headmaster leads Wilkes out of the office. 
 
EXT. SCHOOL. DAY.HEADMASTERHolistic ... is that the word I'm groping for? Mind, body, body, mind. An edge to the body, an edge to the mind. Some of them smoke. They deserve to take exercise.Headmaster jumps on a boy.Crisps, boy, crisps. This is what we do with crisps.He leads the boy to a bin, scrunches up the packet and chucks them away. Behind him, we see, emerging from his old car, Irwin, the supply History teacher whose application the Headmaster has earlier inspected. He is twenty five or so. 
 
INT. HECTOR'S CLASSROOM. DAY. 
Most of the Boys' lessons will be in History, but now they are with Hector whose assignment is to prepare them for the General Studies paper that all Oxbridge entrants have to take.HECTOROn the timetable our esteemed Headmaster gives these periods the dubious title of General Studies. I will let you into a secret, boys. There is no such thing as General Studies. General Studies is a waste of time. Knowledge is not general. It is specific - and - (He lowers his voice.) --it has nothing to do with getting on.As he talks he walks behind Posner, who looks directly at the camera, which stays with him.POSNER(to camera)This was always Hector's way. He made learning a conspiracy, a plot between us and him. I loved it. 
RUDGE(to Posner)I didn't. What was the fucking point? 
HECTORBut remember, open quotation marks, 'All knowledge is precious whether or not it serves the slightest human use,' close quotation marks.Who said? Lockwood? Crowther? Timms? Akhtar?Pause'Loveliest of trees, the cherry now -' 
AKHTARA. E. Housman, sir. 
TIMMSWasn't he a nancy, sir? 
HECTORFoul, festering grubby-minded little trollop. Do not use that word.He hits him with a book.TIMMS 
You use it, sir. 
HECTORI do, sir, I know but I am far gone in age and decrepitude. 
CROWTHERYou're not supposed to hit us, sir. We could report you, sir. 
HECTOR(despair)I know, I know.An elaborate pantomime, all this.DAKINRemember, sir, we're scholarship candidates now. We're all going in for Oxford and Cambridge, sir.HECTOROxford and Cambridge, what for? 
LOCKWOODOld, sir. Tried and tested. 
HECTORNo, sir. It's because other boys want to go there. The hot ticket. Standing room only. 
CROWTHER(winking)Where did you go, sir? 
HECTORSheffield. I was very happy. 
'Happy is England, sweet her artless daughters. Enough her simple loveliness for me.'Keats. 
CROWTHERWe won't be examined on that, will we, sir? 
HECTORKeats? 
CROWTHERHappiness.He hits them.DAKINYou're hitting us again, sir. 
HECTORChild, I am your teacher. Whatever I do in this room is a token of my trust. 
I am in your hands. It is a pact. Bread eaten in secret. 
'I have put before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live.' Oxford and Cambridge!INT. CORRIDOR OUTSIDE HEADMASTER'S STUDY. DAY. 
Irwin is waiting outside the study. Scripps is passing by when the Headmaster appears.HEADMASTERYou are? 
IRWINIrwin. 
HEADMASTERIrwin? 
IRWINThe supply teacher. 
HEADMASTERQuite so.Scripps has watched this and turns to camera.SCRIPPSHector had said that if I wanted to write I should keep a notebook and there must have been something furtive about Irwin's arrival because I wrote it down. I called it clandestine, a word I'd just learnt and wasn't sure how to pronounce.INT. HEADMASTER'S STUDY. DAY. 
Irwin is now sitting with the Headmaster.HEADMASTERThe examinations are at the end of term, which gives us three months at the outside. Well, you were at Cambridge, you know the form. 
IRWINOxford, Jesus. 
HEADMASTERI thought of going, but this was the fifties. Change was in the air. A spirit of adventure.IRWINSo, where did you go? 
HEADMASTERI was a geographer. I went to Hull.An awkward pause.They are a likely lot, the boys. All keen. One oddity. Rudge. Determined to try for Oxford, and Christ Church of all places. No hope. Might get in at Loughborough in a bad year. Otherwise all bright. But they need finish. Edge. Your job. We are low in the league. I want to see us up there with Manchester Grammar School, Haberdashers' Aske's, Leighton Park. Or is that an open prison? No matter.Pause.There is a vacancy in History. 
IRWINThat's very true. (thoughtfully)That's very true. 
HEADMASTERIn the school. 
IRWINAh. 
HEADMASTERGet me scholarships, Irwin, pull us up the table and it is yours. I am corseted by the curriculum, but I can find you three lessons a week. 
IRWINNot enough.Headmaster looks at the wall timetable.HEADMASTERYe-es. I think I know where we can filch an hour. You are very young. Grow a moustache. I am thinking classroom control.INT. HECTOR'S CLASSROOM. DAY. 
Posner is singing an Edith Piaf song, 'L'Accordioniste', accompanied by Scripps. Hector's disdain for anything like a curriculum is indulged by the Boys. When the song finishes --HECTOROu voudriez-vous travailler cet après-midi?Groans. 
DAKINJe voudrais travailler ... dans une maison de passe. 
HECTOROo la la. 
Boys - 
Qu'est-ce que c'est? 
Qu'est-ce qu'une maison de passe? 
POSNERA brothel. 
HECTORTrès bien. Mais une maison de passe où tous les clients utilisent le subjonctif, ou le conditionnel, oui?He motions to Dakin, who goes out of the classroom, and knocks on the door.POSNEREntrez, s'il vous plaît.Voilà votre lit and voici votre prostituée.Posner indicates Timms. 
DAKINJe veux m'étendre sur le lit.HECTORJe voudrais ... I would like to stretch out on the bed in the conditional or the subjunctive. Continuez, mes enfants.Dakin makes to lie down on some chairs.POSNERMais les chaussures, monsieur, pas sur le lit. 
DAKINExcusez moi, Mademoiselle. 
POSNEREt votre pantalon s'il vous plaît.Dakin takes off trousers.Oh. Quelles belles jambes.Dakin examines his own legs with approval.Et maintenant ... Claudine.Timms does a passable impression of Catherine Deneuve.DAKINOui, la prostituée, s'il vous plaît. 
CLAUDINE (TIMMS)A quel prix? 
DAKINDix francs. 
CLAUDINEPour dix francs je peux vous montrer ma prodigieuse poitrine.There is a knock at the door.POSNERUn autre client.Posner opens the door. The Boys freeze in horror. Hector is unperturbed.HECTORAh, cher Monsieur le Directeur --The Headmaster comes in with Irwin. Dakin stands trouserless in front of them.HEADMASTERMr Hector, what on earth is happening ...Hector holds up an admonitory finger.HECTORL'anglais, c'est interdit. Ici on ne parle que français, en accordant une importance particulière au subjonctif.The Headmaster is cornered.HEADMASTEROh, ah. 
Et qu'est-ce qui se passe ici? 
Pourquoi cet garçon ... Dakin isn't it? ... est sans ses ... trousers?HECTORQuelqu'un? Ne sois pas timide. Dites à cher Monsieur le Directeur ce que nous faisons.The Boys are frozen. Hector beams at them.DAKINJe suis un homme qui ... 
HECTORVous n'êtes pas un homme. Vous êtes un soldat ... un soldat blessé, vous comprenez cher Monsieur le Directeur ... soldat blessé? 
HEADMASTERWounded soldier, of course, yes. 
HECTORIci c'est un hôpital en Belgique. 
HEADMASTERBelgique? Pourquoi Belgique? 
AKHTARYpres, sir. Ypres. Pendant la Guerre Mondiale Numéro Un. 
HECTORC'est ça. Dakin est un soldat blessé, un mutilé de guerre et les autres sont des médecins, infirmiéres et tout le personnel d'un grand établissement médical et thérapeutique. 
Continuez, mes enfants.HEADMASTERMais ...Lockwood begins to moan. The others follow suit. Screams, groans, an over-the-top portrayal of a field hospital.AKHTARQu'il souffre! 
HECTORIl est distrait. 
IRWINIl est commotionné, peut être? 
HECTORComment? 
IRWINCommotionné. Shell-shocked.There is a perceptible moment.HECTORC'est possible. Commotionné. Oui, c'est le mot juste. 
HEADMASTERPermettez-moi d'introduire M. Irwin, notre nouveau professeur. 
HECTOREnchanté. 
HEADMASTEREnough of this ... silliness. Not silliness, no ... but ... Mr Hector, you are aware that these pupils are Oxbridge candidates. 
HECTORAre they? Are you sure? Nobody has told me. 
HEADMASTERMr Irwin will be coaching them, but it's a question of time. I have found him three lessons a week and I was wondering ... 
HECTORNo, Headmaster. (He covers his ears.) 
HEADMASTERPurely on a temporary basis. It will be the last time, I promise. 
HECTORLast time was the last time also. 
HEADMASTERI am thinking of the boys. 
HECTORI, too. Non. Absolument non. Non. Non. Non. C'est hors de question. Et puis, si vous voulez m'excuser, je dois continuer le leçon. A tout à l'heure.Headmaster looks at Irwin.HEADMASTERFuck.They go as the bell goes. Hector picks up helmet.RUDGEIt's true, though, sir. We don't have much time. 
AKHTARWe don't even have to do French. 
HECTORNow, who goes home?There are no offers.Surely I can give someone a lift? 
Who's on pillion duty? 
Dakin? 
DAKINNot me, sir. Going into town. 
HECTORCrowther? 
CROWTHEROff for a run, sir. 
HECTORAkhtar? 
AKHTARComputer club, sir. 
POSNERI'll come, sir. 
HECTORNo. No. Never mind. 
SCRIPPS(resignedly)I'll come, sir. 
HECTORAh, Scripps. 
SCRIPPSThe things I do for Jesus.Hector and Scripps go.POSNERIt's never me. 
LOCKWOODYou're too young, still. 
DAKINThough it will happen. Now that you have achieved puberty ... 
LOCKWOODIf rather late in the day ...DAKINMr Hector is likely at some point to put his hand on your knee. This is because Mr Hector is a homosexual and a sad fuck. The drill is to look at the hand and say, 'And what does Mr Hector want?' He has no answer to this and so will desist.EXT. SCHOOL CAR PARK. DAY.HECTOR (crash-helmeted and on the bike).Thrutch up.Scripps, also in helmet and on the pillion, grips Hector tighter. They roar off. 
 
EXT. STREET. DAY. 
They pass a woman, who notices something and looks back. 
 
EXT. ROAD. DAY. 
The bike cruises along. Scripps' patient, bored face, hands on his helmeted head. 
 
INT. SCHOOL CORRIDOR. DAY. 
Mrs Lintott and the Headmaster.MRS LINTOTTI just think I should have been told. 
HEADMASTERHe comes highly recommended. 
MRS LINTOTTSo did Anne of Cleves. 
HEADMASTERWho? He's up-to-the-minute, Dorothy. More now. 
MRS LINTOTTNow? I thought history was then.INT. CANTEEN. DAY. 
Headmaster approaches Akhtar and Timms as they queue for lunch.HEADMASTERAnne of Cleves? Remind me. 
AKHTARFourth wife of Henry VIII, sir. 
HEADMASTEROf course. 
TIMMSShe was the one they told him was Miss Dish, only when she turned up she had a face like the wrong end of a camel's turd. 
HEADMASTERQuite so.INT. HEADMASTER'S STUDY. DAY. 
After his rebuff in the French class, the Headmaster is scanning the timetable. Irwin stands waiting.HEADMASTERFiona!She comes in. 
 
INT. CHANGING ROOMS. DAY. 
Class of around twenty-five or so, including the History Boys.TIMMSI've brought a note, sir. 
WILKESHow much for? 
I don't do notes. Get changed. 
TIMMSSir ... 
WILKESGod doesn't do notes either. Did Jesus say, 'Can I be excused the crucifixion?' 
No.SCRIPPSActually, sir, I think he did. 
WILKESChange.INT. GYMNASIUM. DAY. 
Posner is struggling on the wall-bars.WILKESFrame yourself, boy. Oxford and Cambridge won't want a boy that can't hang upside down on the wall-bars.After some failure to get over the horse or whatever.You're letting yourself down. You're letting God down. 
LOCKWOODWhat's God got to do with it? 
WILKESListen, boy. This isn't your body. 
LOCKWOODNo? 
WILKESThis body is on loan to you from God. 
LOCKWOODFuck me. 
WILKESI heard that. Give me five. 
LOCKWOODFive what? Hail Marys? 
WILKESDo it.He is doing them when Irwin's shoes come into shot.You're late. 
Get your kit off. 
IRWINI'm on the staff. 
WILKESI've never seen you. What's this?Irwin hands him a note, which he studies.TIMMSDo you want any help, sir? 
AKHTARIs it joined-up writing?Wilkes fumes and then begins to read out the names of the History Boys. 
 
INT. IRWIN'S CLASSROOM. DAY. 
Irwin waiting. The Boys struggle in, some still half-dressed.LOCKWOODThat was ace, sir. 
SCRIPPSYeah. Great stuff. 
IRWINDon't thank me. Thank the Headmaster, or his secretary. Mrs Lintott has given me a sight of your latest essays. The experience was interesting, the essays not.Irwin has a pile of the History Boys' essays. He distributes them.Dull. 
Dull. 
Abysmally dull. 
A triumph ... the dullest of the lot. 
DAKINI got all the points. 
IRWINI didn't say it was wrong. I said it was dull. Its sheer competence was staggering.DAKINActually, sir, I know tradition requires it of the eccentric schoolmaster, but do you mind not throwing the books? They tend to fall apart.Irwin regards them for a moment or two in silence.IRWINAt the time of the Reformation there were fourteen foreskins of Christ preserved, but it was thought that the church of St John Lateran in Rome had the authentic prepuce. 
DAKINDon't think we're shocked by your mention of the word foreskin, sir. 
CROWTHERNo, sir. Some of us even have them. 
LOCKWOODNot Posner, though, sir. Posner's like, you know, Jewish. 
It's one of several things Posner doesn't have.Posner mouths 'Fuck off.'That's not racist, though, sir. 
CROWTHERIsn't it? 
LOCKWOODIt's race-related, but it's not racist.Another pause while Irwin regards the class.IRWINHas anybody been to Rome? Venice? Florence? Well, the other candidates will have been and done courses on it, most likely, so when they get an essay like this on the Church at the time of the Reformation they will know that some silly nonsense on the foreskins of Christ will come in handy so that their essays, unlike yours, will not be dull. They're not even bad. They're just boring. You haven't got a hope. 
CROWTHERSo why are we bothering? 
IRWINYou tell me. You want it. Your parents want it. Me, I'd go to Newcastle and be happy.Long pause.Of course, there is another way. 
CROWTHERHow? 
TIMMSCheat? 
IRWINPossibly. And Dakin ...? 
DAKINYes, sir? 
IRWINDon't take the piss. 
There isn't time.INT. HISTORY CORRIDOR, LOCKER AREA. DAY. 
They are leaving school for the day.TIMMSWhat a wanker. 
DAKINThey all have to do it, don't they? 
CROWTHERDo what? 
DAKINShow you they're still in the game. Foreskins and stuff. Sir, you devil! 
SCRIPPSHave a heart. He's only five minutes older than we are. 
DAKINWhat happened with Hector on the bike? 
SCRIPPSAs per. (He demonstrates.) I think he thought he'd got me going. In fact it was my Tudor Economic Documents, Volume Two.They stop talking as Posner comes up.POSNER (to camera)Because I was late growing up I am not included in this kind of conversation. I'm not that sort of boy. That's probably why I'm clever.INT. SCHOOL LIBRARY. DAY. 
 
A montage, to music, of all the Boys feverishly studying, taking books from the shelves, books particularly about the First World War. 
 
EXT. PLAYING FIELDS. DAY. 
Rudge teeing up a rugger ball then addressing the camera before kicking a perfect goal.RUDGENobody thinks I have a hope in this exam. Well, fuck 'em.EXT. SCHOOL GROUNDS. DAY. 
Irwin and his class are sitting outside in the sun.IRWINSo, let's summarise. The First World War. What points do we make? 
CROWTHERTrench warfare. 
LOCKWOODMountains of dead. 
POSNEROn both sides. 
DAKINGenerals stupid. 
POSNEROn both sides. 
AKHTARArmistice. Germany humiliated. 
IRWINKeep it coming. 
CROWTHERMass unemployment. 
AKHTARInflation. 
TIMMSCollapse of the Weimar Republic. Internal disorder and the rise of Hitler. 
IRWINSo. Our overall conclusion is that the origins of the Second War lie in the unsatisfactory outcome of the First. 
TIMMSYes. (Doubtfully.) Yes. (As they make to leave.)Others nod.IRWINFirst class. Bristol welcomes you with open arms. Manchester longs to have you. You can walk into Leeds. But I am a fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford and I have just read seventy papers all saying the same thing and I am asleep ... 
SCRIPPSBut it's all true. 
IRWINWhat's truth got to do with it?What's truth got to do with anything?INT. MRS LINTOTT'S CLASSROOM. DAY. 
Hector and Mrs Lintott are watching Irwin and his class from a window.MRS LINTOTTThe new man seems clever. 
HECTORHe does. Depressingly so. 
MRS LINTOTTMen are at history, of course. 
HECTORWhy history particularly? 
MRS LINTOTTStorytelling, so much of it, which is what men do naturally. 
HECTORDakin's a good-looking boy, though somehow sad. 
MRS LINTOTTYou always think they're sad, Hector, every, every time. Actually, I wouldn't have said he was sad. I would have said he was cunt-struck. 
HECTORDorothy. 
MRS LINTOTTI'd have thought you'd have liked that. It's a compound adjective. You like compound adjectives. 
Oh. Going walkabout.Irwin and his class have taken off and he is leading them out of the school.EXT. MUNICIPAL PARK/WAR MEMORIAL. DAY. 
They are walking through a municipal park.IRWINThe truth was, in 1914 Germany does now want war. Yes, there is an arms race, but it is Britain who is leading it. (He stops.) Why does no one admit this?They turn the corner and see the war memorial.That's why. The dead. The body count. We don't like to admit the war was even partly our fault because so many of our people died. And all the mourning has veiled the truth. It's not lest we forget, but lest we remember. That's what this is about ... the memorials, the Cenotaph, the Two Minutes' Silence. Because there's no better way of forgetting something than by commemorating it.He turns to Scripps.And as for the truth, Scripps, which you were worrying about, forget it. In an examination, truth is not at issue. 
DAKINDo you really believe that, sir, or are you just trying to make us think? 
SCRIPPSYou can't explain away the poetry, sir. 
LOCKWOODNo, sir. Art wins in the end. 
SCRIPPSWhat about this, sir? 
'Those long uneven lines Standing as patiently As if they were stretched outside The Oval or Villa Park, The crowns of hats, the sun On moustached archaic faces Grinning as if it were all An August Bank Holiday lark ...The others take up the lines of Larkin's poem, maybe saying a couple of lines each through to the end, as they go -- but matter of factly.LOCKWOOD'Never such innocence, Never before or since, As changed itself to past Without a word - 
AKHTAR'-- the menLeaving the gardens tidy, 
POSNER'The thousands of marriages Lasting a little while longer: 
TIMMS'Never such innocence again.' 
IRWINHow come you know all this by heart? (Baffled, shouts.) Not that it answers the question.EXT. BUS STOP. DAY. 
Scripps, Posner and Dakin are waiting for a bus.SCRIPPSSo much for our glorious dead. 
DAKINQuite. Actually, Fiona's my Western Front. Last night, for instance, I thought it might be the big push so, encountering only token resistance, I reconnoitred the ground as far as the actual place. 
SCRIPPSShit. 
DAKINI mean, not onto it and certainly not into it. But up to it.Cut to: 
INT. A BEDROOM. NIGHT. 
Dakin and Fiona snogging, Dakin rummaging.DAKIN(voice-over)The beauty of it is, the metaphor really fits. I mean, moving up to the front you presumably had to pass the sites of previous battles, like her tits, which actually only surrendered about three weeks ago, but to which I now have immediate access and which were indeed the start line for a determined thrust southwards. 
What's the matter? 
FIONA(signifying it's over)No man's land. 
DAKINAw, fuck. So what do I do with this? 
FIONA(sweetly)Carry out a controlled explosion?Cut to: 
INT./EXT. BUS. DAY. 
Scripps, Posner and Dakin are on the top deck of the bus home.DAKINStill, at least I'm doing better than Felix. 
POSNERFelix? 
SCRIPPSNo! 
DAKINTries to. 
POSNERActually, the metaphor isn't exact. Because what Fiona is presumably carrying out is a planned withdrawal. You're not forcing her. She's not being overwhelmed by superior forces. Does she like you? 
DAKINCourse she likes me. 
POSNERThen you're not disputing the territory. You're just negotiating over the pace of the occupation. 
SCRIPPSJust let us know when you get to Berlin. 
DAKINI'm beginning to like him more. 
POSNERWho? Me? 
DAKINIrwin. Though he hates me.Dakin gets off the bus.SCRIPPSCheer up. At least he speaks to you. Most guys wouldn't even speak to you. Love can be very irritating. 
POSNERHow do you know? 
SCRIPPSIt's what I always think about God. He must get so pissed off, everybody adoring him all the time. 
POSNERYes, only you don't catch God poncing about in his underpants.Posner looks out of the window: Dakin is walking up the street with Fiona. Posner looks miserably after them, as, in voice-over, he sings the first verse of Rodgers and Hart's 'Bewitched'.INT. HECTOR'S CLASSROOM. DAY. 
Posner, accompanied by Scripps, is singing 'Bewitched' to Dakin. General discontent at the music and at the waste of time.HECTORWell done, Posner. Anybody know who it's by? 
CROWTHERWho cares? 
POSNERRodgers and Hart, sir. 
HECTORAnd sung best by? 
CROWTHEROh, for Christ's sake. 
POSNERElla Fitzgerald. 
HECTORThat was the lyric. Now for poetry of a more traditional sort.Timms groans.What is this? 
TIMMSSir. I don't always understand poetry. 
HECTORYou don't always understand it? Timms, I never understand it. But learn it now, know it now and you'll understand it whenever. 
TIMMSI don't see how we can understand it. Most of the stuff poetry's about hasn't happened to us yet. 
HECTORBut it will, Timms. It will. And then you will have the antidote ready! Grief. Happiness. Even when you're dying. Smile! We're making your deathbeds here, boys. 
LOCKWOODFucking Ada! 
TIMMSBut we've got an ending, sir. 
HECTORReally? Well, be sharp! Fetch the tin.General relief. Someone takes a large tin down from a shelf. Timms and Lockwood are at the front of the class.TIMMSWe have to smoke, sir. 
LOCKWOODI happen to have one, sir. 
HECTORVery well.Timms and Lockwood suddenly snap into an elaborate charade, both making startlingly effective jobs of assuming the voices and postures of the actors from Hollywood's golden age (another of Hector's enthusiasms).TIMMSGerry, please help me. 
LOCKWOODShall we just have a cigarette on it? 
TIMMSYes. 
LOCKWOODMay I sometimes come here? 
TIMMSWhenever you like. It's your home, too. There are people here who love you. 
LOCKWOODAnd will you be happy, Charlotte? 
TIMMSOh Gerry. Don't let's ask for the moon. We have the stars.Hector pretends puzzlement, looks in the tin to count the kitty. It's clear what the game is: if he can't identify the movie, the kitty goes to the Boys.HECTORCould it be Paul Henreid and Bette Davis in Now, Voyager
TIMMSAw, sir. 
HECTORIt's famous, you ignorant little tarts. 
LOCKWOODWe'd never heard of it, sir. 
HECTORWalt Whitman. Leaves of Grass. 
'The untold want, by life and land ne'er granted, Now, Voyager, sail thou forth, to seek and find.' 
Fifty p. Pay up. 
LOCKWOODShit.Lockwood and Timms pay up. 
 
INT. SCHOOL LIBRARY. DAY. 
Rudge is looking through the books on film. Mrs Lintott appears behind him.RUDGEThere's nothing on the Carry On films. 
MRS LINTOTTWhy should there be? 
RUDGEThe exam. Mr Irwin said the Carry Ons would be good films to talk about. 
MRS LINTOTTReally? How peculiar. Does he like them, do you think? 
RUDGEProbably not, miss. You never know with him. 
MRS LINTOTTI'm now wondering if there's something there that I've missed. 
RUDGEMr Irwin says that, 'While they have no intrinsic artistic merit -- (He is reading from his notes.) -- they achieve some of the permanence of art simply by persisting and acquire an incremental significance if only as social history.' 
MRS LINTOTTDear me. What fun you must all have. 
RUDGEIt's not like your stuff, miss, it's cutting-edge. It really is. 
MRS LINTOTTCan I say something to you? 
RUDGEMiss? 
MRS LINTOTTOther people have lives. That's what education is about. 
RUDGEIf you say so, miss.INT. HISTORY CORRIDOR. DAY. 
The Boys and Irwin are heading for the classroom.TIMMSWhere do you live, sir? 
IRWINHorsforth. 
DAKINOh. Not far from Mr Hector, sir. He might even give you a lift if you asked him. 
TIMMSIt's not a loft, is it, sir? 
AKHTARDo you exist on an unhealthy diet of takeaway food, sir, or do you whisk up gourmet meals for one? 
TIMMSOr is it a lonely pizza, sir?INT. IRWIN'S CLASSROOM. DAY.IRWINI manage. No questions from you, Dakin? 
DAKINWhat they want to know, sir, is 'Do you have a life?' Or are we it? 
Are we your life? 
IRWINPretty dismal if you are. Because these are as - (Giving out books.) -- dreary as ever. You get a question, you know the answer - but so does everyone else. So say something different, say the opposite. Take Stalin. Generally agreed to be a monster, and rightly. So dissent. Find something, anything, to say in his defence. 
SCRIPPS (to camera)When Irwin became well-known as a TV historian this was his technique ... find an assumption, then turn it on its head. Those who were caught napping at Pearl Harbour were the Japanese, the real culprit was President Roosevelt. Find a proposition, invert it, then look round for proof ... the technique was as formal as the disciplines of the medieval schoolmen. 
IRWINA question is about what you know, not about what you don't know. A question about Rembrandt, for instance, might prompt an answer about Degas. 
RUDGEIs Degas an Old Master, sir? 
TIMMSAbout suffering, they were never wrong, sir. The Old Masters. How it takes place while someone is eating or opening a window. 
IRWINHave you done that with Mr Hector? 
TIMMSDone what, sir? 
IRWINThe poem. You were quoting somebody. Auden. 
TIMMSWas I, sir? Sometimes it just flows out. Brims over. 
IRWINWhy does he lock the door?They turn to each other in mock surprise.AKHTARLock the door? Does he lock the door? 
IRWINDoes he have a programme? Or is it just at random? 
AKHTARIt's just knowledge, sir. 
TIMMSThe pursuit of it for its own sake, sir. 
AKHTARBreaking bread with the dead, sir. That's what we do. 
LOCKWOODIt's higher than your stuff, sir. Nobler. 
POSNEROnly not useful, sir. Mr Hector's not as focused. 
TIMMSNo, not focused at all, sir. Blurred, sir, more. 
AKHTARYou're much more focused, sir. 
CROWTHERAnd we know what we're doing with you, sir. Half the time with him we don't know what we're doing at all. (He mimes being mystified.
TIMMSWe're poor little sheep that have lost our way, sir. Where are we? 
AKHTARYou're very young, sir. This isn't your gap year, is it, sir? 
IRWINI wish it was. 
LOCKWOODWhy, sir? Do you not like teaching us, sir? We're not just a hiccup between the end of university and the beginning of life, like Auden, are we, sir?Dakin has been silent till now. He suddenly joins in.DAKINDo you like Auden's poetry, sir? 
IRWINSome. 
DAKINMr Hector does. We know about Auden. He was a schoolmaster for a bit. 
IRWINI believe he was, yes. 
DAKINHe was. Do you think he was more like you or more like Mr Hector? 
IRWINI've no idea. Why should he be like either of us? 
DAKINI think he was more like Mr Hector. 
A bit of a shambles. He snogged his pupils. Auden, sir. Not Mr Hector. 
IRWINYou know more about him than I do. 
DAKIN'Lay your sleeping head, my love, Human on my faithless arm.'That was a pupil, sir. Shocking, isn't it? 
IRWINSo you could answer a question on Auden, then? 
VARIOUS BOYSHow, sir? 
No, sir. 
That's in the exam, sir. 
TIMMSMr Hector's stuff's not meant for the exam, sir. It's to make us more rounded human beings. 
IRWINListen. Don't piss on your chips. This examination will be about everything and anything you know and are. If there's a question about Auden or whoever and you know about it, you must answer it. 
AKHTARWe couldn't do that, sir. 
That would be a betrayal of trust. 
LOCKWOODIs nothing sacred, sir? 
We're shocked. 
POSNERI would. Sir. And they would. They're taking the piss. 
LOCKWOOD'England, you have been here too long And the songs you sing are the songs you sung On a braver day. Now they are wrong.' 
IRWINWho's that? 
LOCKWOODDon't you know, sir? 
IRWINNo. 
LOCKWOODSir! It's Stevie Smith, sir. Of 'Not Waving but Drowning' fame. 
IRWINWell, don't tell me that is useless knowledge. You get an essay on post-imperial decline, losing an empire and finding a role, all that stuff, and a gobbet like that is the perfect way to end it. 
LOCKWOODA what, sir? 
IRWINA gobbet, a quotation. How much more stuff like that have you got up your sleeves? 
LOCKWOODWe've got all sorts, sir. The train! The train!And immediately Posner and Scripps are on their feet. Posner is an uncannily accurate Celia Johnson, Scripps a tight-lipped Cyril Raymond. Scripps even manages to play Rachmaninov to accompany the first part of the scene.POSNER (CELIA JOHNSON)I really meant to do it. I stood there right on the edge. But I couldn't. I wasn't brave enough. I would like to be able to say it was the thought of you and the children that prevented me but it wasn't.I had no thoughts at all. 
Only an overwhelming desire not to feel anything at all ever again. 
Not to be unhappy any more. 
I went back into the refreshment room. That's when I nearly fainted. 
IRWINWhat is all this? 
SCRIPPS (CYRIL RAYMOND)Laura. 
POSNER (CELIA JOHNSON)Yes, dear. 
SCRIPPS (CYRIL RAYMOND)Whatever your dream was, it wasn't a very happy one, was it? 
POSNER (CELIA JOHNSON)No. 
SCRIPPS (CYRIL RAYMOND)Is there anything I can do to help? 
POSNER (CELIA JOHNSON)You always help, dear. 
SCRIPPS (CYRIL RAYMOND)You've been a long way away.Thank you for coming back to me.She cries and he embraces her.IRWINGod knows why you've learned Brief Encounter.The Boys applaud fulsomely.BOYSOh very good, sir. Full marks sir. 
IRWINBut I think you ought to know this lesson has been a complete waste of time. 
DAKINLike Mr Hector's lessons then, sir. They're a waste of time, too. 
IRWINYes, you little smartarse, but he's not trying to get you through an exam.INT. STAFF ROOM. DAY. 
Hector, who has been sitting reading a racing paper, gets up to leave and on his way whispers to Wilkes, who is pinning up a NO SMOKING notice.HECTORFrench Kiss? 
WILKESI beg your pardon? 
HECTORThree o'clock at Chepstow.Hector leaves. Mrs Lintott and Irwin are at the tea trolley.MRS LINTOTTHow're you finding them?Irwin shrugs.IRWINYou've taught them too well. They can't see it's a game. 
MRS LINTOTTHistory? Is it a game? 
IRWINFor an exam like this, yes.She is lighting up.WILKESDorothy.He indicates the notice.MRS LINTOTTFuck.She and Irwin leave, passing the Headmaster as they are going out. 
 
INT. CORRIDOR. DAY. 
They are on their way out.MRS LINTOTT(of the Headmaster)I call him the Awful Warning. If you don't watch out he's what you turn into. If this were a film in the forties he'd be played by Raymond Huntley. 
IRWINWho? 
MRS LINTOTTHe made a speciality of sour-faced judges and vinegary schoolmasters. 
IRWINWho would I be played by? 
MRS LINTOTTDirk Bogarde?IRWINI'm not sure I like that.As they turn the corner, Hector comes down the corridor. Mrs Bibby, the art teacher, stops him.MRS BIBBYHector: the very man! 
HECTOROh, stink. Hello, Hazel. 
MRS BIBBYOur lord and master having grudgingly conceded that art may have its uses, I gather I am supposed to give your Oxford and Cambridge boys a smattering of art history. 
HECTORNot my bag, Hazel. Irwin's your man. 
IRWIN(heading off)It's really just the icing on the cake. 
MRS BIBBYWas art ever anything else?She hurries away down the corridor. 
 
INT. ART ROOM. DAY. 
The Boys are examining art books. Mrs Bibby sees Timms with Michelangelo.MRS BIBBYMichelangelo. We-ell. I suppose. 
TIMMS(to Akhtar)Who've you got?Akhtar shows him Caravaggio.Both nancies. 
AKHTARAre they? 
TIMMSWell, these aren't women.He shows him the Michelangelo.They're just men with tits. And the tits look as if they've been put on with an ice-cream scoop.Back at the tables Mrs Bibby is with Lockwood.MRS BIBBYDo you like Turner, then? 
LOCKWOODThey're all right. 
MRS BIBBYWell, choose somebody you do like. Art is meant to be enjoyed. 
LOCKWOODIn the long term, miss, maybe. But with us, enjoyment doesn't come into it. We haven't got time to read the books. We haven't got time to look at the pictures. What we really want is lessons in acting, because that's what this whole scholarship thing is ... an acting job.All the Boys are gone. Mrs Bibby is talking to herself pretty much, as she shelves some books.MRS BIBBYThe best way to teach art would be to ban it. Put it out of bounds. That way they'd be sneaking in here all the time. Art is furtive, unofficial; it's something on the side.She puts a bowl of hyacinths back on the table.The mistake is to put it on the syllabus. Yes, Hazel, thank you very much.EXT. SCHOOL GROUNDS. DAY. 
Mrs Lintott and Irwin outside, smoking at last.MRS LINTOTTSo have the boys given you a nickname? 
IRWINNot that I'm aware of. 
MRS LINTOTTA nickname is an achievement ... both in the sense of something won and also in its armorial sense of a badge, a blazon. Unsurprisingly I am Tot or Totty. Some irony there, one feels. 
IRWINHector has no nickname. 
MRS LINTOTTYes he has. Hector. 
IRWINBut he's called Hector. 
MRS LINTOTTAnd that's his nickname too. He isn't called Hector. His name's Douglas, though the only person I've ever heard address him as such is his somewhat unexpected wife.In the distance, Dakin and Scripps are out for a run. Irwin is reminded of something.IRWINPosner came to see me yesterday. He has a problem. 
MRS LINTOTTNo nickname, but at least you get their problems. I seldom do.INT. IRWIN'S CLASSROOM. DAY. 
Posner and Irwin are alone in the classroom.POSNERSir, I think I may be homosexual.EXT. SCHOOL GROUNDS. DAY.IRWIN'Posner,' I wanted to say, 'you are not yet in a position to be anything.' 
MRS LINTOTTYou're young, of course. I never had that advantage.INT. IRWIN'S CLASSROOM. DAY.POSNERI love Dakin. 
IRWINDoes Dakin know? 
POSNERYes. He doesn't think it's surprising. Though Dakin likes girls basically.EXT. SCHOOL GROUNDS. DAY.IRWINI sympathised, though not so much as to suggest I might be in the same boat. 
MRS LINTOTTWith Dakin? 
IRWINWith anybody.Maybe Irwin has been looking at Dakin, still running with Scripps.MRS LINTOTTThat's sensible. One of the hardest things for boys to learn is that a teacher is human. One of the hardest things for a teacher to learn is not to try and tell them.INT. IRWIN'S CLASSROOM. DAY.POSNERIs it a phase, sir? 
IRWINDo you think it's a phase? 
POSNERSome of the literature says it will pass. 
IRWIN(voice-over)I wanted to say that the literature may say that, but that literature doesn't. 
POSNERI'm not sure I want it to pass. 
But I want to get into Cambridge, sir. If I do, Dakin might love me. 
Or I might stop caring. Do you look at your life, sir? 
IRWINI thought everyone did. 
POSNERI'm a Jew. 
I'm small. 
I'm homosexual. 
And I live in Sheffield. 
I'm fucked.EXT. SCHOOL GROUNDS. DAY.MRS LINTOTTDid you let that go? 
IRWIN'Fucked'?Yes, I did, I'm afraid. 
MRS LINTOTTIt's a test. A way of finding out if you've ceased to be a teacher and become a friend. He's a bright boy. You'll see. Next time he'll go further. What else did you talk about? 
IRWINNothing. No. Nothing.She goes back inside. 
 
INT. IRWIN'S CLASSROOM. DAY.IRWINPosner? Why didn't you ask Mr Hector about Dakin?Pause.POSNERI wanted advice, sir. Mr Hector would just have given me a quotation. Housman, sir, probably. Literature is medicine, wisdom, elastoplast. Everything. It isn't, though, is it, sir? 
IRWINIt will pass. 
POSNERWill it, sir? How do you know?EXT. SCHOOL GROUNDS. DAY. 
Dakin and Scripps finish their run. Dakin waves at Irwin. Irwin goes. 
 
INT. CHANGING ROOMS. DAY. 
They are changing.DAKINSo all this religion, what do you do? 
SCRIPPSGo to church. Pray. 
DAKINYes? 
SCRIPPSIt's so time-consuming. You've no idea. 
DAKINWhat else? 
SCRIPPSI

Alan Bennett is a renowned playwright and essayist whose screenplay for The Madness of King George was nominated for an Academy Award. He lives in London, England.