Entre Les Murs (The Class)
Directed by Laurent Cantet, 128 minutes, 2008, France
Festival Palme d’Or
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
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