Snapshot from the film Les Choristes. Mathieu is conducting, with Pépinot sitting on the desk behind him, from grouchoreviews.com
Les Choristes is a modern classic film from France, released in 2004, depicting the tale of a problem-child all-male boarding school. It’s an adaptation of the film A Cage of Nightingales (La Cage aux Rossignols) from 1945.
The basis of the story is that the widely successful orchestra conductor Pierre Morhange returns to France when his mother dies. With his old friend Pépinot, he reminiscences about his childhood inspirations through the pages of a diary kept by his old music teacher Clément Mathieu. The film travels back to 1949, when a young Pierre is the badly behaved son of a single mother. He attends a boarding school Fond de L’Etang (roughly translates to rock bottom), which is for difficult boys. The new teacher, Mathieu, decides to assemble a choir, which leads to the discovery of Pierre’s musical talents and a transformation in the boys behaviours.
There are so many lovely names associated with this film, despite many of the characters only being known by their surnames. Starting off with the music teacher, his name was Clément Mathieu. Both names have been used as first names, and I do believe that both names are also relatively popular in France at the moment.
The name Clément comes from the Late Latin name Clemens, which meant merciful or gentle. As for Mathieu, he’s the French form of the name Matthew, a name that means gift of God.
Another name from the teaching staff was Rachin, the name of the strict headmaster. Strictly speaking, it’s his surname, but there are plenty of surnames used in the film which have potential: Boniface, Pépinot and Corbin. My favourite character was Pépinot – the t is silent – who was the youngest boy at the school. He would wait by the gates every Saturday for his father, but his father would never turn up. Near the end of the film Mathieu is fired and when he leaves Pépinot runs after him and asks to go with him. Eventually Mathieu relents, and the two board a bus together. The touching part? This all happened on a Saturday.
As for Pierre, his mother was called Violette. And she’s not the only Violette associated with the film, and actress named Violette played one of Rachin’s daughters. His second daughter was played by a Lena, and his wife was played by a Marielle.
Other names of actors from the film:
People from Armenia are known as Armens, thus some have suggested that this name means son of Armenia. Taking this further, the name Armenia has been theorised to have derived from the name Aram, which means excellence in it’s Armenian capacity. The exact origins of the name Armenia makes this only one of many theories, however.
I know of two brothers named Didier and Dieudonne. The name Didier is the French form of the name Desiderio, which means longing, desire.
This name derives from the Latin word faber, which means craftsman. It is worth noting that the name Brice is not related, it instead means speckled.
The real surname of the lad who played Pépinot, who was credited as Maxence Perrin. His father, Jacques Perrin, played the adult Pierre in the film. Maxence’s brothers are called Mathieu and Lancelot and Maxence’s cousin, Christophe, directed the film.
There is a Spanish name Téodule, which comes from the name Theodulus. It has the meaning of slave of God. Presumeably, therefore, Theodule is the French interpretation of the name.