Now, I’m not the emotional type. There are a few cinematic moments, however, which cause wads of tears to pour down my cheeks because I find them so touching. One of these scenes takes place in the film Mr. Holland’s Opus (1995). Before I tell you which scene, I’d like to talk a little bit about Mr. Holland (Richard Dreyfuss) as a teacher.
Glenn Holland can be an unlikable character. Although he takes the job at John F. Kennedy High School in order to have a life and family with his wife, he seems to struggle throughout the film with fulfilling fatherly and husbandly duties. As opposed to the last two films, I find Mr. Holland’s negative traits inspire his positive ones. While I would never tell a father to spend all of his time of students or music, his devotion is what makes him such a profound influence on his students. And, yeah, it ends okay with his wife and son… so… we can forgive him, just this once.
Mr. Holland is unique for many reasons. He is an advocate for arts, a sector of high school education which often is ignored in terms of funding and he is at odds for a majority of the film for his school’s lack of faith in arts and music. He is unafraid of using unconventional methods to teach classical music to his students. The film begins in the 1960s, the era of rock ‘n’ roll and experimental music. In an attempt to connect to the students, he uses rock ‘n’ roll to relate to their tastes and connect it to classical music. Yes, he does lose a lot of himself at the price of devoting his life’s work to students… including his own orchestral arrangements and, as I said before, his family.
A real turning point in this film is when he humbles himself to try to relate to his deaf son, Cole. Previously, Mr. Holland is frustrated because he believes Cole can never understand his love for music — this creates a deep chasm in their relationship. Cole finally confronts his father and tells him he wants to appreciate music, but needs help. Mr. Holland learns sign language to a John Lennon song to perform and dedicates the song to Cole. Grab your Kleenex…
I don’t think we realize how much teachers sacrifice for us when we are in their classes. We’d all love to believe their desk is like a fold-out couch with a bed and pillow secured beneath… but that’s not reality. They have homes, families, troubles, issues, and above all, they have dreams to lose along the way for the sake of bettering the lives of others. I love teachers for their drive and devotion. Sometimes it takes a filmic representation like Mr. Holland to touch our hearts and see their human side.