The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

Saw this movie (Maggie Smith) years ago and it always bothered me. At the theater it just seemed so conflicting a message. I was confused by the message as it was a time of rapid feminism.

Over the years I tried to understand it and recently in the last few days did some research, read the actual book and found that the author was a convert to the catholic faith.

Has anyone seen this movie or read the book and would you say it is a catholic movie. The more I reflect on it, the more I see it as such. Reviews say that many of her books reflect a catholic theme.

This movie was shown in 1969 hardly a time for any catholic movie…

Haven’t read the book (but should). Only saw the movie. I do not find it surprising that someone would think it a book or movie with Catholic themes.

For me, the most memorable aspect of Jean Brodie is her overweening pride; a pride that eventually kills one of “her girls”. Jean selects her “elect” like a Calvinist version of God, but betrays them all in terrible ways. She subverts and seduces a Catholic married man with children, but it’s really just part of her game of pride. He falls, as sinners do, but while his is a sin of the flesh, hers is one of the soul. She talks about being in her “prime”; a sort of assumption of godlike perfection.

I also thought of it in terms of Greek tragedy, in which hubris leads to downfall and destruction. For the Greeks, everyone had his rightful part to play, rather like MacBeth. MacBeth was, of course, written by a Christian and (some think) Catholic writer who, Catholic or not expressed very Catholic themes.

Jean Brodie exhibits hubris (rejection of Providence) in exalting herself and departing (like MacBeth) from what she was really meant to do…teach prescribed curriculum to young girls. It brings her down, and she does not repent, just as MacBeth does not repent though invited earnestly by MacDuff to do so.

And Jean Brodie’s pursuit of personal evil is fueled by self-deception; which is that which causes us to reject Providence, i.e., the proper role God has laid out for us.

Again, I should read the book. But from the movie alone, I would not disagree with the view expressed above.

Thanks so much for your response.

This movie totally confused me and for years it weighted on my mind, at times almost wished I had not seen it and I recently just sorted it out.

Spoiler Alert!

Just read the book and Sandy( the one who betrays her) becomes a nun. The story is told at the end in relation to the Brodie girls who visit her at her convent. She has been granted a dispensation to speak. It tells of their future lives and that Miss Brodie died shortly(in years) after let go “in retirement”.

Miss Brodie never learns fully who betrayed her and only “thinks” it could have been Sandy after years of probing questions to the other girls.

There are some changes in who does what in the movie and the book and two girls are physically injured. One in a new girl Emily who seeks to follow her bother in Spain and later Mary McGregore (after Miss Brodie is already retired)…

Just rewatched the movie and there is a short nude scene, I did not remember, where Sandy is sitting for him.

Any insight into why the art teacher paints all his portraits to look like Miss Brodie?

Some thoughts…

Is he just a bad artist as Sandy states.(simple)

Or does he see all the girls taking on Miss Brodie’s demeanor?

He also paint his family that way so does he see all of society as have as controlling -, having Miss Brodie’s traits

I haven’t seen the movie (but probably should). I’ve only read the book.

Muriel Spark was a convert to Catholicism (from the Church of England). Many of her novels have at least Catholic subtexts, even if they’re not overtly about Catholic themes.

One that’s very funny is The Abbess of Crewe, which is basically Watergate set in a convent. All the political intrigue of the Nixon White House is transferred to the abbey.

Spark was a strange woman. Her life was strange, and her writing, often very funny, was strange. She had a weird but brilliant sense of humor.

Saw the show and I saw NOTHING Catholic in it except maybe that the young girl who died caused those left behind to think she died for a good cause giving her life for her country. Really a confusing show with brief nudity and lots of sexual overtones between characters. Wouldn’t read the book even if I could. Main character seemed very self obsessed and always wanted HER life & HER beliefs to live on in “her girls”. A bit scary if you think of it in real life of a teacher having such emotional control over her students. JMHO.

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