The Class
By David Davidson

 © Photo by Lois Siegel

David Davidson
Psychology and film studies student at the University of Ottawa
Interest in less conventional approaches to cinema
Often sees three films per week

Entre Les Murs (The Class)
Directed by Laurent Cantet, 128 minutes, 2008, France

starCannes Film Festival Palme d’Orstar

Lauren Cantet's "The Class," is an engrossing and entertaining classroom drama. Adapted from
François Bégaudeau semi-autobiographical 2006 novel "Entre Les Murs," the film details the struggles of a literature teacher at a tough, inner-city Paris school.

Based on his experiences as a teacher, Bégaudeau's screenplay has a real-life ear for classroom chatter and dynamics, and the line between truth and fiction in "The Class" is often blurred.  Bégaudeau and the junior high school students are all amateur actors. As a result, they bring an unmatched authenticity to the film with their natural portrayals of their subjects.  Bégaudeau's performance as a firm, charming and understanding teacher is endearing.  Many of the students are foreign born and immersed in cultures outside that of mainstream France. They represent the new, multi-ethnic makeup of the country.  These teenagers vary from being smart, soft-spoken, ignorant, rude contemptuous, and aggressive.

Bégaudeau struggles as he tries to teach them over a year. He is persistent, and his hopes that he
can honestly help his students and change their lives is laudable, albeit idealistic. The film's deep belief in the power of teaching comes through in faculty meetings where the instructors express their concern and argue the multifaceted consequences of their decisions.

Cantet's direction sits the audience down in the classroom, and through his intimate camerawork and the use of Steadicam ( A steadicam is a stabilizing mount for a motion picture camera. It allows a very smooth shot, even when the operator is moving quickly over an uneven surface or running up and down stairs), he is able to focus on each student and his peculiarities. Students are seen solely in the classroom and during recess, but through their attitudes, style, and clothing emerge as three-dimensional characters.

The classroom can be used as a metaphor of change and hope, but the audience's expectation for both erodes as the tense atmosphere escalates and the students challenge their teacher with increasing intensity. The viewer then realizes that in the future a whole new set of students challenging will appear between those walls.

This is one class you do not want to miss.

In French with English subtitles.

Contact: David Davidson

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