William Hundert is the assistant headmaster at St.Benedict school where he directs his virtuous and upright demeanor to his students and wholly expects them to follow these high standards that he has set for them in the institution. His main aim is to motivate the students here and set them on in the right path in life with his mantra to being “walk the path of great men” and at times asking them what history will remember them for once they are gone. He is an aficionado of Greek and Roman folklore and holds them in high regard as he sees them as great lessons about various difficult issues that individuals would face in the course of their lives.
Hundert never forgets to remind the students about his duty in making sure that all his students have their moral Barometers in kilter and that they become upright members of the society. Nonetheless, everything changed when in the summer of 1976 school semester Sedgewick Bell, the spoilt scion of a West Virginian Senator joined the school. They collided almost immediately as both of them stood for different virtues in life and ,Sedgewick having come from a very privileged upbringing, did not see what he could learn from a ‘’mere tutor’’. This was to create a rift between them that lasted close to twenty five years.
In the film, the seasoned actor Kevin Kline plays Hundert and does a superb job in this role. He exemplifies all this character is supposed to epitomize. This is clearly shown when he confronts Senator Sedgewick over his sons slumping grades without fear or favor. He does not give Sedgewick Bell preferential treatment but treats him as any other ordinary student in the school and brings forth pertinent issues that need to be discussed as regards academic matters in the institution. This expresses his professionalism in dealing with issues and also his work ethic.
Furthermore, a gentler and more vulnerable side of him is revealed in the film when it becomes apparent that he has feelings towards his co-worker Elizabeth. He cannot express his feelings to her because of one very big problem; Elizabeth is married! Soon, he gets wind of Elizabeth’s plan to relocate to Europe with her better half and this makes him die a little inside. This heartrending revelation leaves him depressed and gloomy but he does not dare intimate it to anyone and chooses to conceal all these under his thick cloak of professional ethics
Sedgewick Bell starts improving in his class work and also participation in class. He slowly but surely rises to the top three contenders for the Julius Caesar competition and something rather strange happens. He has a Eurekah moment where he now realizes that Sedgewick Bell has a lot of potential and this leads him to give him the opportunity to compete by raising his grades even when other deserving students such as Blythe were left out. This leads one to question why he would engage in such a professional malpractice and also his real intentions for such an action. After the competition, the top three Masoudi, Bell and Metha ready to battle it out and after this round, Martha and Sledgewick Bell remain.
In attendance was Hundert and Senator Bell who were really enthused to find out that Sledgewick Bell was in the final round. Hundert would however note that Sledgewick Bell would put his hands over his face after each question and he thus assumed that he was cheating. Cheating was punishable by suspension in the institution and when mentioned to the headmaster, he suggests that the competition be allowed to continue undisturbed. Hundert remembers during the competition that Mertha read the book “Hamilcar Barca” which was not to be in the competition and later decides to ask Sledgewick Bell a question from this book of which he answers incorrectly. Metha answers the question and ends up winning the competition and is duly crowned. This sudden turn of events creates a strain relationship between Hundert and Sledgewick Bell whose ripple effect would be felt twenty five years later after this encounter between these two.
Twenty five years later, a lot has happened in the lives of these individuals. Hundert resigned from his post in the university and later decided to marry the love of his life Elizabeth. Most of his students have become very successful in business and it is at this moment that something startling happens. Sledgewick Bell reaches out to Hundert and informs him of his plans to give very large donation to his former school but only under one condition, rematch of the Julius Caesar competition held twenty five years ago that he had lost. Hundert accepts the challenge and sets up a rematch with most of his former students now in attendance.
During the lead up to the match Sledgewick Bell shares an interesting chat with Hundert where he is sure to inform his former tutor about how thankful he is for all those important lessons and virtues that he instilled in him. Then came the moment which everyone had been waiting for.The 1976 team that had reached the finals was assembled and it comprised of Masoudi, Metha and Sledgewick Bell. Hundert has a hunch that maybe Sledgewick Bell had not changed his tactics of underhand methods during competitions and this leads him to follow him to the lavatories during the short break that was there during competition.
During this confrontation, Hundert realizes that Sledgewick Bell has not changed his ways and after asking him why he would want to be dishonest during such a competition he loses his cool. He becomes a boil over and ends up telling him that his ultimate goal was to win the competition through whatever means possible. It so happened that during this outburst, his young son was in the vicinity and heard all that his father had to say about not caring about good morals. On realizing that his son would now knowing him for who really is, Sledgewick Bell ends up running after his son in a bid to explain this embarrassing situation. Hundert goes back to his former students in the suite that they had booked for the festivities and they all thank him for all the good morals he instilled in them.
This film was very educational to me in particular. First, I learnt that the most important thing in life is to have very high moral standards. These high moral standards would be instrumental in shaping who we are as individuals in would lead us to always think of other people apart from us in all situations. It is apparent that Sledgewick Bell was a selfish individual who was only after extolling himself. When he called for a rematch, he only did so to prove a point that he came from a “winner stock” and not for the sake of individuals.
Possessing personal integrity is also a lesson I gathered from this film. It was quite apparent that Hundert was a person of high integrity and this was a value most people admired about him. He treated every student the same, even those who came from very privileged backgrounds like the senators son and always reminded his students the importance of having a high moral fiber. It is an important attribute to be known as a person who is upright and can be depended upon
It is also important to have emotional intelligence as it is an attribute that would lead to a life of good relations with people. It is quite apparent that Sledgewick Bell did not possess emotional intelligence, first when he would look down individuals in the school because he was the son of a senator and later on in the washrooms twenty five years later when he had his outburst and went on a rant about how he would do anything to win and did not care about Hundret’s “naive” philosophies. This did not serve him right as his own son heard of his disposition and was clearly not impressed.
Learning to interact with everyone in the society was also an important lesson learnt from this film. It was evident that Sledgewick Bell found it hard interacting with other students as he considered himself better than them. He initially got into trouble for this and was always on the collision course with his tutors and especially with Hundert. Status does not mean that we are different from other people and we should learn to relate well with all members in society as Hundert clearly did.
All these lessons would be very important in my life as it is important to have high morals. High morals would also require one to be emotionally intelligent so as to ensure that we are able to interact well with all members of society.
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