The Substitute [subtitled]

The Substitute

The Substitute is a short film from Italy, about fifteen minutes long. Ultimately I think I get the point it’s trying to make, and overall it’s decent, but it struck me as kind of clunky in execution—maybe on the level of a good student film.

The short is about a stranger—a substitute teacher—who arrives in a high school classroom one day, and proceeds to abuse his authority by browbeating the students into doing various outrageous things. (Lord knows what kind of class this is supposed to be. I’d say if it’s a drama class, this is barely realistic, but otherwise not.) He takes it to such an extreme that it quickly becomes evident it is a put on of some kind. Some of the students play along and some do not. He seems especially to respect those who refuse, though really beneath the bluster he’s fine with the others as well, as long as their cooperation is in the spirit of fun, in the spirit of joining the put on.

Later we see how he deals with a parallel situation where he is put in a position roughly like the position he put the students in.

Presumably—as also evidenced by the dedication at the end—it’s a celebration of disobedience and non-conformity, of children refusing to let the school system and conventional socialization turn them into drones who follow all the rules. (Though one could also make the case that it advocates learning and going along with the rules and responsibilities of adulthood but only in a self-conscious and mocking way rather than through fear or just a mindless lack of awareness that anything else is possible.)

All-in-all, it’s a fun little film in its way.

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