Thursday Interview: The Headmaster

– Headmaster, I was reading a recent review of Lindsay Anderson’s film If…, which said it was as relevant today as ever. Do you agree?

– One sees, of course, why If... struck a chord at the time, won the Palme d’Or at Cannes and, indeed, became a cult film. The sixties. That general feeling of revolt in the air. But it was never a relevant film. It was a childish piece, in tune with the times, but Anderson was letting off steam, no more. Common sense has now reasserted itself.

– Oh, that’s reassuring. Common sense, you mean, as shown in this graph?

– I see you haven’t changed much, Bausse. Still a bit bolshy. But you never quite cut it as a rebel, even if you thought you had a cause.

– Ha, ha, very droll, Headmaster. Do you have a name, by the way?

– My name is unimportant. What counts is my function. I am The Headmaster.

– That’s a bit creepy, isn’t it? Like The Joker. The villain in Batman? All right, never mind. So what’s your function, then?

– In one word, to educate. From the Latin, educare, literally ‘to lead out’. And to encourage those qualities of leadership in the pupils who attend our schools.

– Leadership? As in ‘Let’s go and rule the British Empire’?

– If you can’t be serious, Bausse, I’m afraid I shall have to end this interview.

– All right, I’ll try. But just to be clear, when you say ‘our schools’, you mean Independent Schools, right? What used to be called Public Schools. Eton, and so on. Which are anything but public because they cost a fortune.

– It can indeed reach a substantial amount.

– An arm and a leg, you mean.

– Which makes our responsibility all the greater. We don’t succeed with everyone, of course.

– Are you referring to me, Headmaster?

– Well, you did go to a Public School, albeit a minor one.

– Yes, the very one Anderson went to, where he shot If... In fact, if you know exactly when and where to look, you can see me for a nanosecond. But you’re quite right, Headmaster, I should be up there with David Cameron and Boris Johnson, setting the country right. Can’t think why I’m not.

– Attitude, Bausse, attitude. A great shame. You had the capacity but you were stubborn. Never adopted the values we tried so hard to instill.

– Oh, well. Bit late to change now, I suppose. But I’d like to come back to If… I was wondering what you thought of the last scene. It must have been a dreadful way to go.

– Not at all! I was doing my duty and I acted as I thought fit. Demonstrating those exact qualities of leadership I’ve been talking about. And really, what happened to me was of no consequence whatever. Because there’ll always be someone to replace me. I’m The Headmaster.

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