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English Titles C

Clockwork Mice

Original title: Clockwork Mice
German title: Lauf, wenn Du kannst
Great Britain, 1995

Director: Vadim, Jean
Production company: Metrodome Films
Co-producers: Metronome Films, Winchester Films
Age recommendation: 12 years and up

Teacher Steve is a naive beginner in his job at the Parkwood School for maladjusted children. His first day in school becomes a baptism of fire: when Steve enters the school-yard in accompaniment of another teacher, Conrad James - one of his future pupils - catapults himself through the soft top of a 2CV. And this is how the day continues. During his first lesson, alone with small boy, the pupil suddenly ticks, overthrowing tables and breaking chairs, finally escaping through the window. Steve near to utter despair seeks help with the older teachers and tries to find out how they manage, at least partially, to survive in such a demanding, hostile environment, some few of them even succeeding in getting through to the kids. Steve experiences what many a new beginner in socially inclined jobs feel how to maintain your hope and enthusiasm in the face of the utter despair, hurt and resulting aggressiveness in the eyes of many of his pupils. Slowly but surely he finds his own personal style and gains the trust of his students, understands how to communicate with them and to interest them in the curriculum as well as the care and sympathy with other human beings. He succeeds with all but one: Conrad James, the 14 year old has blocked off all real contact with the world and with his own emotions after a series of disasters have destroyed his family environment.

There are two things that strengthen Steve for his daily task: the slowly developing relationship with Polly, a fellow teacher, and cross-country running in the surrounding fields. When he has put on his running shoes, jogging through the green fields, all tension disappears and in his head he recites poetry. And through running he finally manages to breakthrough to Conrad. It is by accident that Steve finds out that this passion for running is a bond between him and his pupil. So he takes up the risk and challenges Conrad to a 400 m race. If he was to lose, he might also lose the acceptance of all the other children. But if he was to win, Steve would risk humiliating Conrad in the eyes of all of his comrades. But the almost impossible comes true and pupil and teacher succeed in establishing a very special relationship between them. What none would have believed: Steve even encourages Conrad to develop an interest in poetry.

When Polly tells him that she will leave the school by the end of the term for she has no power left to sacrifice her whole personal life for her tasks in school, Steve is asked once more to decide how much his personal convictions mean to him. Steve's decision is clear when Conrad is heading towards a catastrophical crisis, but maybe the price Steve is prepared to pay, is too high. (Lucas 1996)

This film moved me to tears, being a half hearted film viewer, I was astounded, and gobsmacked when this film came on, not only did it grasp my full attention, it also send a shiver down my spine that lasted me the whole evening, so close was it to my own experiences, it was eerie.
I smiled as I remembered my times as a student at Bicknell. We may not have fitted into the full picture of things, but the work of people in the special needs areas is largely underestimated, and this film pays it the complement it deserves, and puts forward to the unaware, the stark reality and unpredictability of that environment.

If I could go back and live my life again, (I wouldn't change a thing)
Glenn Dawkins, Former Pupil of Bicknell Special needs School, glenn@discouk.com

Frankfurt 96 (awarded), Laon 96, BUFF Malmö 1997; Film Festival Ragazzi Bellinzona 1996; Cinemagic Belfast 1995; Cinekid Amsterdam 1995;

World sales address/es:
Victor Films Company (GB)

Sold to:
Mikado Film (I)