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In this paragraph, what does already distant time mean?

This film takes place in an already distant time.
The story it tells could not happen today.
Discipline is no longer as severe in colleges, and the education
methods are very different.
But what will never change, what remains eternal, are
the emotions which test the threshold of adolescence

What are we talking about? future or past?

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Your text example is talking about both the past and the future by referencing historic discipline and future passage into adolescence.

References to the past in your example

in an already distant time
could not happen today
no longer as severe

References to the future in your example

will never change
remains eternal

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The "already" implies past tense.

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