Ex­tra­or­di­nary Schools for Ex­tra­or­di­nary Stu­dents

Beijing (English) - - CONTENTS - Trans­lated by Pan Yingzhao Edited by David Ball

Sto­ries re­lated to schools on the sil­ver screen have never been more pop­u­lar. How­ever, the schools that make it onto the big screen of­ten have some­thing about them that is a lit­tle out of the or­di­nary.

For the ma­jor­ity of peo­ple, school was one of the most spe­cial pe­ri­ods of their lives. Of­ten how­ever, peo­ple are only too ea­ger to grad­u­ate when they're at school, but them spend their work­ing lives look­ing back fondly on their time spent in the class­room. Pos­si­bly be­cause of such a spe­cial re­la­tion­ship, sto­ries re­lated to schools on the sil­ver screen have never been more pop­u­lar. How­ever, the schools that make it onto the big screen of­ten have some­thing about them that it is a lit­tle out of the or­di­nary, whether in terms of the teach­ing en­vi­ron­ment, cur­ricu­lum or per­haps the stu­dents them­selves. But what is it about these schools that makes them so un­for­get­table?

Magic Schools

An ad­mis­sion let­ter de­liv­ered by an owl, the se­cret Plat­form 9 3/4 to get to the school, the mag­i­cally-hid­den shop­ping street of Di­agon Al­ley, the sen­tient sort­ing hat… If magic re­ally did ex­ist, the Hog­warts School of Witch­craft and Wiz­ardry, or “Hog­warts” for short, would un­doubt­edly be one of the most pop­u­lar in the world. Ac­cord­ing to its rules on ad­mis­sion, anyone born with mag­i­cal tal­ent will au­to­mat­i­cally be placed on the ad­mis­sion list re­gard­less of whether they come from a mag­i­cal fam­ily or a Mug­gle fam­ily. Af­ter reach­ing the age of 11, those on the list will re­ceive their very own ad­mis­sion let­ter from Hog­warts. As a re­sult, nu­mer­ous 11-year-old chil­dren have waited pa­tiently for their let­ter from Hog­warts to be de­liv­ered by an owl ever since J.K. Rowl­ing's Harry Pot­ter se­ries was re­leased in 1997.

Peo­ple's im­pres­sion of how Hog­warts looks can be traced back to the first Harry Pot­ter film in 2001. Harry Pot­ter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, di­rected by Chris Columbus and star­ring Daniel Rad­cliffe, Ru­pert Grint and Emma Wat­son, took this school which so many chil­dren were ob­sessed with onto the big screen, pre­sent­ing the once-fan­tasy world to au­di­ences for the first time. Af­ter the firstyear stu­dents ar­rive, they must first put on the Sort­ing Hat, which will judge their per­son­al­i­ties and abil­i­ties to de­ter­mine which of the four school Houses of Gryffindor, Huf­flepuff, Raven­claw or Slytherin they should join. The stu­dents en­joy classes filled with dan­ger and fun in­clud­ing sub­jects such as Po­tions, His­tory of Magic, Care of Mag­i­cal Crea­tures, Her­bol­ogy, Charms, De­fence Against the Dark Arts, Trans­fig­u­ra­tion and Mug­gle Stud­ies. These not only pro­vide the stu­dents with in-depth knowl­edge about magic, but also help them un­der­stand the world of Mug­gles and the his­tory of magic. Out­side the class­room, the stu­dents get to take part in ex­cit­ing ac­tiv­i­ties and there is even a World Cup for Quid­ditch. As one of the three ma­jor Euro­pean magic schools de­picted in fic­tion, Hog­warts is a sa­cred place for dis­sem­i­nat­ing knowl­edge on magic and a tra­di­tional and nat­u­ral cam­pus en­vi­ron­ment with an out­stand­ing teach­ing at­mos­phere.

Af­ter the suc­cess of Harry Pot­ter, many sim­i­lar magic schools be­gan to ap­pear on the big screen, but Hog­warts still dom­i­nates. In­ter­est­ingly, peo­ple seem un­sat­is­fied that such a school only ex­ists in the vir­tual world. So, af­ter be­com­ing of­fi­cially ac­cred­ited as an aca­demic in­sti­tu­tion, the Grey School of Wiz­ardry in Cal­i­for­nia of­fi­cially opened to en­roll stu­dents in 2011, mak­ing it the first magic school in the Mug­gle world. The school was founded by Oberon Zell-raven­heart, a writer and the present head­mas­ter, who orig­i­nally es­tab­lished the school be­fore J. K. Rowl­ing burst onto the scene, of­fer­ing sub­jects such as Alchemy, Beast Mas­tery, Lan­guage of Horses, Mak­ing of Mag­i­cal Wands and Spell Cast­ing. Nowa­days, the Grey School of Wiz­ardry fo­cuses mainly on on­line teach­ing whilst pe­ri­od­i­cally hold­ing magic train­ing camps. Af­ter pay­ing the US$30 ad­mis­sion fee, you too can start your own mag­i­cal jour­ney. Although you might not nec­es­sar­ily learn any­thing you can use in the real world, hav­ing your very own di­ploma from such a school is some­thing many peo­ple have al­ways dreamed of.

Su­per­power Schools

When looked at against the Avengers and the Jus­tice League, Mar­vel's X-men se­ries looks al­most like a dif­fer­ent “species.” In 2000, af­ter ac­quir­ing the copy­right to use the char­ac­ters, 20th Cen­tury Fox re­leased the first X-men film di­rected by Brian Singer. Com­pared with the fa­mil­iar en­ter­tain­ment-ori­ented Mar­vel film uni­verse and the darker DC film uni­verse, X-men is more re­al­is­tic as most of its char­ac­ters are both nor­mal and yet also pos­sess su­per­pow­ers. The film also em­pha­sises the mu­tants' sta­tus as a mi­nor­ity within so­ci­ety. Con­tain­ing themes and top­ics re­lated to so­cial is­sues, the film en­ables au­di­ences those who have not read the comic books to re­late through sim­i­lar re­al­is­tic prob­lems. With such a set­ting, the se­ries has laid a more se­ri­ous tone in which the X-men and

so­ci­ety echo each other al­low­ing peo­ple to in­stantly dis­tin­guish the se­ries from sim­i­lar superhero films. Per­haps it is the re­al­ism in X-men that al­lowed a large au­di­ence to im­me­di­ately fall for the Xavier's School for Gifted Young­sters when they first saw it.

Founded by Pro­fes­sor Charles Xavier (Pro­fes­sor X), the Xavier's School for Gifted Young­sters is de­signed to help young mu­tants con­trol their pow­ers and learn how to get along with hu­mans so that they can utilise their pow­ers for the ben­e­fit of so­ci­ety. Though not a big part of the X-men se­ries, sto­ries of events from the school ap­pear in most of the films and are key fac­tors in mov­ing the plot along. The first and sec­ond Dead­pool movies, which take place in the same world as X-men, even in­clude some tragic and funny sto­ries from Wade Win­ston Wil­son's (a.k.a. Dead­pool) short stay in the Xavier's School for Gifted Young­sters. How­ever, per­haps be­cause it ac­cepted too many mu­tants, the school has been plagued by dis­as­ters and is al­most rou­tinely de­stroyed. Luck­ily, re­build­ing the school is not a prob­lem for some­one with the pow­ers of Pro­fes­sor X.

Although well aware that the school in the film does not ex­ist, many peo­ple still make the trip to Hat­ley Cas­tle in Canada which served as the school in the fran­chise. Hat­ley Cas­tle, lo­cated in Vic­to­ria's old­est mu­nic­i­pal park, was built by James Dun­smuir, the el­dest son of the Dun­smuir fam­ily, in 1908. The cas­tle was de­signed in a Scot­tish style be­cause of James Dun­smuir's Scot­tish an­ces­try and his nos­tal­gia for his home­town. It was pur­chased at the start of World War II for use as a royal res­i­dence, although the Royal Fam­ily stayed in Lon­don, and was later used as a naval train­ing academy. Nowa­days, the cas­tle's sec­ond floor and above serve as the ad­min­is­tra­tive cen­tre of the Royal Roads Univer­sity of Canada. Af­ter fea­tur­ing in block­busters such as X-men and Dead­pool, the cas­tle now also hosts a grow­ing num­ber of film fans from around the world who make the pil­grim­age to visit the “school.”

Spy Schools

With more and more se­cret agents ap­pear­ing on the big screen, spy schools are no longer a nov­elty. The most pop­u­lar spy school in re­cent years has to be Kings­man, a se­cret agent school in the UK which ap­peared in the film Kings­man: The Se­cret Ser­vice. In 2015, the mys­te­ri­ous se­cret ser­vice or­gan­i­sa­tion was re­vealed to au­di­ences in the film adapted from Mark Mil­lar's comic book of the same ti­tle, di­rected by Matthew Vaughn and star­ring Colin Firth, Sa­muel L. Jack­son, Michael Caine, Taron Eger­ton and oth­ers. Kings­man, os­ten­si­bly a tai­lor's shop on Sav­ille Row, is in fact a coun­tert­er­ror­ism spy or­gan­i­sa­tion. The group was orig­i­nally es­tab­lished in 1919 by wealthy Bri­tish in­di­vid­u­als who lost their heirs dur­ing World War I and so set up this mod­ern “knight­hood or­gan­i­sa­tion” to erad­i­cate ter­ror­ism. All the group's ac­tions are con­ducted in the ut­most se­crecy, with the pub­lic com­pletely un­aware of their pres­ence, mean­ing Kings­man is cloaked in mys­tery.

Kings­man: The Se­cret Ser­vice is one of the most recog­nis­able spy films of re­cent years. In the first film, Michael Caine's Arthur and Colin Faith's Harry Hart are the back­bones of Kings­man. In re­cruit­ing the new­est mem­ber, Harry se­lects “Eg­gsy,” a young lad who has lost his way in life. Eg­gsy must then pass a se­ries of dan­ger­ous train­ing tests to join the or­gan­i­sa­tion. Mid-way through his train­ing, Rich­mond Valen­tine, a men­tally un­sta­ble bil­lion­aire tech ge­nius, be­gins to threaten the safety of the world. Eg­gsy needs to quickly be­come a se­cret agent to help put an end to this lethal threat. With many lines and plots that know­ingly salute clas­sic spy films such as 007 and The Bourne Iden­tity, the film is ex­tremely en­ter­tain­ing and full of Bri­tish style. Also, whilst adopt­ing a mod­ern per­spec­tive, it ex­udes the essence of spy films from the 1960s and 70s. For that rea­son, the film has also been called “a love let­ter from a Bri­tish di­rec­tor in Hol­ly­wood to Bri­tish spy films.”

Af­ter the suc­cess of the first film, its fol­low-up, Kings­man: The Golden Cir­cle, was a huge world­wide hit af­ter its re­lease in 2017. Un­like the first film, Kings­man's UK head­quar­ters was de­stroyed shortly af­ter the se­quel be­gan. The help­less Eg­gsy and Mer­lin are then forced to go to the United States to fight along­side States­man, their Amer­i­can coun­ter­part. Per­haps be­cause of the new set­ting, the con­trasts be­tween the English gentleman-style and the Amer­i­can cow­boy-style be­came the film's big­gest at­trac­tion. How­ever, many of the au­di­ence had fallen in love with the se­ries be­cause of the orig­i­nal film at­tracted by its por­trayal of el­e­gant, aloof, well-dressed, well-spo­ken and po­lite English gentleman spies. As such, many au­di­ence mem­bers did not take well to all the changes and were dis­ap­pointed by the ab­sence of these sig­na­ture el­e­ments in the new film.

Fake Col­leges

“So­ci­ety has rules and the first rule is: you go to col­lege. You want to have a happy and suc­cess­ful life, you go to col­lege. If you want to be some­body, you go to col­lege. If you want to fit in, you go to col­lege.” These lines come from Ac­cepted, a 2006 Amer­i­can com­edy film. Di­rected by Steve Pink and star­ring Justin Long, Jonah Hill, Columbus Short, Maria Thayer and Blake Lively, Ac­cepted tells the story of Bartleby Gaines, who gets re­jected by eight col­leges in a row af­ter he grad­u­ates from high school. Feel­ing “cor­nered,” Bartleby cre­ates a fake col­lege with his friends: the South Har­mon In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy.

Un­der the pres­sure of hav­ing to fur­ther his ed­u­ca­tion and de­spite his doubts about the ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem, Bartleby still has to face the fact that no col­lege is will­ing to ad­mit him. For­tu­nately, he was not the only stu­dent at his high school to be re­jected by their col­leges. In or­der to fool their par­ents, these “re­jects” de­cide to cre­ate a fake col­lege. Bartleby has his best friend Sher­man cre­ate a web­site, hir­ing his un­cle—a former teacher and now-mar­ket­ing as­sis­tant— to pre­tend to be the dean, and leas­ing an aban­doned psy­chi­atric hospi­tal as their cam­pus. Although os­ten­si­bly an or­di­nary in­sti­tute, the South Har­mon In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy is fun­da­men­tally dif­fer­ent from nor­mal col­leges: It was es­tab­lished from a lie and is sus­pected of be­ing fake. The In­sti­tute has no rules, cour­ses or cur­ricu­lum, all of which were drawn up by the "founder" him­self. Stu­dents are also not just stu­dents: they can also cre­ate their own classes, serve as their own teach­ers and even cre­ate sub­jects. The big­gest sur­prise is that such an au­da­cious plan turns out to be a suc­cess. Un­der the su­per­vi­sion of the in­sti­tute, stu­dents start cre­at­ing var­i­ous per­son­alised cour­ses and the in­sti­tute even passes an ed­u­ca­tional ac­cred­i­ta­tion hear­ing.

Built on a seem­ingly ridicu­lous premise, the plot of Ac­cepted is ac­tu­ally rather thought-pro­vok­ing. The movie at­tacks nar­row-think­ing in higher ed­u­ca­tion and af­firms the ideas of pro­tect­ing and cul­ti­vat­ing young peo­ple's cre­ativ­ity and pas­sion. Ob­vi­ously, col­leges “born” and run like the one in the film do not ex­ist, but the ed­u­ca­tional phi­los­o­phy it con­veys and the sense of iden­tity that uni­ver­si­ties should give their stu­dents is im­pres­sive. In re­al­ity, although there is no South Har­mon In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy, there are quite a few uni­ver­si­ties with more open-minded think­ing, in­clud­ing Chap­man Univer­sity in Or­ange County, the pro­to­type for the film. Founded in 1861, Chap­man Univer­sity is one of Cal­i­for­nia's most pres­ti­gious pri­vate uni­ver­si­ties, with its Dodge Col­lege of Film and Me­dia Arts recog­nised as one of the top ten film schools in the world.

Clone Schools

Not all schools are beau­ti­ful ivory tow­ers. In Never Let Me Go, Hail­sham is a board­ing school un­like oth­ers, since ev­ery one of its “stu­dents” are clones.

Kathy, Tommy and Ruth all grew up at Hail­sham, a seem­ingly idyl­lic board­ing school. De­spite the school's many rules, the stu­dents' stud­ies are rel­a­tively easy. They are only re­quired to eat and drink well and oc­ca­sion­ally take one or two art classes, af­ter which, their paint­ings are taken away by a mys­te­ri­ous wo­man. One day, a teacher re­veals to the stu­dents that they are ac­tu­ally clones who's sole pur­pose is to pro­vide or­gans for other hu­mans. How­ever, the mys­te­ri­ous wo­man uses their paint­ings to con­vince the world that they are also real hu­mans. This rat­tles those in the out­side world and leads to the clo­sure of the school, af­ter which, the stu­dents are sent to dif­fer­ent board­ing schools to con­tinue their lives. When they learn that if two clones are in love with each other, they can ap­ply for a “de­fer­ral,” Kathy sud­denly dis­cov­ers that the re­la­tion­ships be­tween the three be­gin to change.

The film is based on the novel

Never Let Me Go by the Ja­panese-born Bri­tish writer Kazuo Ishig­uro. The film stars Carey Mul­li­gan, An­drew Garfield and Keira Knight­ley as Kathy, Tommy and Ruth re­spec­tively, who each put in un­for­get­table per­for­mances. With its slowly un­fold­ing air of tragedy, Never

Let Me Go stands out from other sci-fior­i­ented, fast-paced films based around clones. Although Hail­sham and the chil­dren's school lives are not the cen­tral fo­cus of the movie, the most im­pres­sive part of the film is that af­ter the stu­dents dis­cover they are clones, they still wish to re­turn to the idyl­lic school they once lived in, rather than be cast into the tragic life of be­ing a clone raised to pro­vide or­gans for oth­ers. There­fore, Never Let Me Go is gen­er­ally con­sid­ered more of a lit­er­ary and art film un­der the dis­guise of sci­encefic­tion which ex­plores the themes of love, dystopia and per­sonal iden­tity. As Carey Mul­li­gan, one of the film's lead­ing ac­tresses said, it's easy to think of Never Let Me Go as a sci-fi film, but in fact that's not ex­actly right. She ex­plained that the film doesn't ac­tu­ally have a lot of sci-fi el­e­ments, in­stead it is set in dif­fer­ent re­al­i­ties that have noth­ing to do with science fic­tion. The film is more about hu­man souls and their states of ex­is­tence.

A scene from X-men (2000) di­rected by Bryan Singer

Colin Firth and Taron Eger­ton in Kings­man:thes­e­cret­ser­vice (2014) di­rected by Matthew Vaughn

Keira Knight­ley, Carey Mul­li­gan and An­drew Garfield in Nev­er­let­mego (2010) di­rected by Mark Ro­manek

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