Oxford and Cambridge are prolific in literature and film – and even the applications process itself gets its fair share of air-time. So, with a bleak and rainy weekend ahead of us, you have every excuse to hunker down and watch one of our top 5 Oxbridge films. If anyone asks, it’s motivational viewing!
The History Boys
The 2006 film version of Alan Bennett’s fantastic 2004 play depicts a group of bright Sheffield lads who stay on after their A-levels to prepare for Oxbridge entrance in History. This was how students used to apply to Oxford and Cambridge – the Seventh Term Examinations (which Cambridge students still have to sit in Maths). The ambitious headmaster brings in a new, young Oxbridge graduate to give the boys ‘an edge’, who encourages them bring some controversy into their essays and interview answers.
The archetypal Oxbridge film, and one that has sadly sealed Oxbridge’s reputation as a place of privilege and prosperity, is set in 1920s Oxford, where every student had a college servant to polish their shoes, an unlimited supply of champagne and a country pad to retreat to in the holidays. Happily, or sadly if you rather fancied your own personal shoe-polisher, Oxford is not like this anymore, but it can be fun to plunge into the world Of Charles, Sebastian and Aloysius the teddy on a rainy Saturday afternoon.
One for the sportsmen and women among you: The tale of the 1987 boat race mutiny in Oxford. This film marks the change in attitude of the boat race – from Schoolboy undergraduate rowers taking part, to international elite graduates shipped in to clinch a victory. When a group of American rowers are brought in to the Oxford boat, it becomes a battle of individual egos, rather than a team effort. With the team falling apart, the Oxford boat club president decides to take on Cambridge with the reserves from the second team just a couple of months before the big race – stirring stuff and a good look at 1980’s Oxford.
A post-war coming of age student about a girl with her eyes set on Oxbridge, but who gets distracted by a relationship with an older man. Rebelling against the dreariness of early sixties Britain, Jenny, who fancies herself as a Parisian, starts to wonder what the point of her education is, if she is just been trained to be a nice young lady and marry a nice, professional man. A rather glamorous take on the Oxbridge applications process, and the dedication required to succeed even if you feel like you might have missed the boat.
A very sad film about Sylvia Plath, wife of the late poet laureate Ted Hughes. The couple met in Cambridge so expect lots of dreamy scenes of punting along the Cam and wandering the streets of the city. The film goes on to portray their relationship, Plath’s depression and ultimate death. A little depressing, but a great homage to one of Britain’s best female poets.