French Ed.: “Mrs. Hyde”

Mrs. Hyde (2017) is a weird French film, by Serge Bozon, which stars Isabelle Huppert as a bashful and passive schoolteacher persecuted by her students and disliked by her peers. Almost none of the teenagers in her physics class care about learning, albeit the one who gives her the most trouble—the disabled Arab boy, Malik (Adda Senani)—actually shows promise. Then, after she is struck by lightning, the schoolteacher, Mrs. Gequil, gains new energy and a strange measure of control over her students, Malik most of all. Soon, however, the magic ends, with Mrs. Gequil unable to keep herself from being preternaturally destructive. The film is a pessimistic dark comedy about European schools. Indeed, while it seems to expose a present-day culture of insults and contempt, it is subtly saying that traditional French society is on its way out and is taking French public education with it.

Yes, certain individuals will always show promise, and more, but mass learning is dead. Moreover, the character of a teacher is so vital to any success a school enjoys that it must not be broken down or subverted. But this is what happens in a metaphorical, outre way in Bozon’s Nutty Professor-like picture, with Huppert pulling it off like the great actress she is.

(In French with English subtitles. Currently available on Amazon Prime.)

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