The Emperor’s Club

William Hundert: Kevin Kline
Sedgewick Bell: Emile Hirsch
Elizabeth: Embeth Davidtz
James Ellerby: Rob Morrow
Martin Blythe: Paul Dano

Universal Pictures presents a film directed by Michael Hoffman. Written by Neil Tolkin. Based on the short story “The Palace Thief” by Ethan Canin. Running time: 109 minutes. Rated PG-13 (for some sexual content). Opening today at local theaters.

Central Theme
A man’s character is his fate.

William Hundert believes the classics, strives to live the virtuous life as defined by ‘the greats ‘and teaches history to the brightest and the best at St. Benedict’s Academy. His dream is to one-day serve as Headmaster of the Academy. The arrival of Sedgewick Bell, the privileged son of a wealthy and influential Senator, poses a challenge for Hundert’s teaching skills and eventually for his adherence to his own ethical code.

Determined to bring out the best in the disruptive Sedgewick, he challenges him to enter the rigorous Julius Caser competition. Sedgewick’s work improves dramatically and when in the final essay he is within one point of being one of three finalists, Hundert, in a rare lapse of judgment, provides the extra grade required to allow Sedgewick into the competition, though it is at the expense of the earnest and hard working son of a former Caesar winner, Martin Blythe.

Hundert realizes he has failed as a teacher when, despite the fact that Sedgewick knows the material, he cheats in the competition. For the next three years Sedgewick reverts to his lackluster performance. A few years later Hundert is passed by for the Headmaster’s position and he retires.

But then the successful CEO and wealthy benefactor offers a large gift to St. Benedicts with the only condition being a rematch of the Julius Caesar competition moderated by Hundert. Again he hopes Sedgewick has changed and there is every appearance that he has. During the competition Sedgewick’s character reveals his fate, Hundert confesses his lapse in judgment to Blythe and the education of a lifetime comes to fruition in Hundert himself.

This is a rare study on whether character counts in a society where it increasingly seems not to. The message that character matters is delivered by a man who lives his code for the most part, as in the case of his chaste relationship with Elizabeth, but he is also flawed. It makes the character and the story’s moral point seem more real. This is especially true in light of Sedgewick’s apparent success in life despite his cavalier and duplicitous attitude about character.

Beliefs num
–A man’s character is his fate.
–Great ambition without contribution is without signifance.
–The investment of a good teacher is written in their students and is passed on for generations.

Questions Worth Discussing num
–Does character really matter and why?
–Does character determine your fate? How?
–Why do so many people lacking in character seem so successful?
–Will their lack of character one day be revealed and be their downfall? Can you think of an example?
–Who taught you the most about character?

Provocative Quotes byline
–In everyone’s life there’s that one person who makes all the difference.
==Poster for movie.
–Days that begin with rowing are better than those that don’t and a man’s character determines his fate. I am a teacher. I taught for 34 years and then I stopped.
==Hundert on life lessons.
–I can’t tell you why I agreed to come. It had something to do with hope.
== Hundert arriving at the rematch.
–Not for oneself.
==School motto.
–The end depends on the beginning.
== Hundert in class.
—-Great ambition without contribution is without signifance.
== Hundert lessons from the Greeks.
–Follow the path; walk where the great men before you have walked.
== Hundert a lesson on not walking on the grass.
–Whoever the father is, the son is a bit of a Visigoth.
== Hundert to Headmaster.
–It is not living that matters, but living rightly.
–What’s the good of what you’re teaching the boy? You’re not going to mold my boy. You’re there to teach him. You sire will not mold my boy. I will mold him.
==Senator Bell to Hundert.
–You know what it is costing me to send you to that school? My time is precious son. I’ve got better things to do than to clean up after you.
==Senator to Sedgewick.
–I’m giving you this book because I believe in you. I believe you could be the top of the class if you want to.
== Hundert to Sedgewick.
–Old school huh? Watch and learn.
== Hundert before hitting ball that breaks Headmaster’s window.
–Ignore it.
==Headmaster’s advice when Hundert thinks Sedgewick is cheating.
–Why not?
==Sedgewick to Hundert when asked why he cheated.
–His father’s influence assured him a place at Yale, but it was with a profound sense of failure that I handed him his diploma.
== Hundert at Sedgewick’s graduation.
–You cannot step twice into the same river. A missed opportunity is lost forever.
–Ironic. A retired teacher with no fundraising expertise is now the linchpin.
–Your virtue is a beacon of light.
==Sedgewick to Hundert.
–It is our time to lead. Today I announce my bid to run for the U.S. Senate.
–How long have you been hard of hearing Sedgewick?
==Hundert in the men’s room.
–I am a teacher and I failed you Sedgewick. Allow me one last lecture. One day each of us is forced to look at ourselves in the mirror. You will see a life without virtue. I pity you.
== Hundert to Sedgewick.
–Who out there cares about your principals and virtues? Look at you? What have you got to show for yourself? I live in the real world where people do what they need to do to get what they want. I’ll win the Senate seat and I’ll worry about my contribution later.
==Sedgewick to Hundert just before he learns he has been overheard.
–I learned that the work of a life is not determined by a single failure.
== Hundert

Posted in Movies, Staublog in November 22, 2002 by | No Comments »

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