1) what is the significance of the title of this film?
'girls in uniform'
what's the meaning of uniform? According to Wikipedia, a uniform is a type of clothing worn by members of an organization while participating in that organization's activity. In this film, the military school is the organization, and these girls are the members of this organization. Thus, wearing uniform becomes a mean of maintaining the order and discipline. The title of the film, therefore, signifies a group of girls in a system of orders.
2) what is the significance of the item of clothing Fr von Bernburg gives Manuela?
Fr von Bernburg gives Manuela a petticoat. And petticoat is a piece of women's underwear like a thin skirt or dress that is worn under a skirt or dress. In a sense, the petticoat is a very personal stuff, and as a teacher, Bernburg gives Manuela a petticoat is an action that beyond a teacher's duty. This action brings the affinity between Benburg and Manuela. However, as we know from the school teachers meeting, affinity is not allowed. Thus, the item of clothing that Fr von Bernburg gives Manuela can be viewed as a symbol of rebellion.
3) what is the significance of the motifs of acting and performance in the film?
The play the girls played in the film reveals a parallel storyline. In the role of the prince, Manuela says farewell to the queen, and the similar line is said by Manuela in the real life when she says goodbye to Fr von Bernburg before she attempted to commit suicide.
4) consider how dress, clothing, physical appearance are depicted in the film. what does this depiction suggest about its makers' understanding of gender and/or desire?
The first day Manuela arrived at the school, the teacher takes her own clothes away, since it is forbidden. Girls in the boarding school have to wear the same uniforms to show the order and disciplines. The uniform is very conservative that covers the knees. As Judith Butler has mentioned in Gender Trouble, 'gender is something one does, rather than some something one is.' Wearing such uniforms like in this film clearly constrain the expression of gender as a woman. Also, the strips of the uniform are similar as the uniform of prisoners, which indicates the severe orders and the authority's desire of control.
5) do you think this film is conservative or subversive?