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The Class

January 29, 2014

The Class (2008)
Director: Laurent Cantet
Actors: François Bégaudeau, Franck Keïta, Esmerelda Ouertani

entre-les-murs-groot-300x201.jpg (300×201)

Synopsis: A year in the scholastic life of a Year 9 class taught by François Marin (François Bégaudeau) in inner-city Paris.

Review: A few years back I gave serious consideration to entering the teaching profession. I’d even gone as far as filling out my PGCE application forms and attending a series of interviews, but in the end a couple of nagging doubts about the industry and my personal ambitions were to prove too irreconcilable. One doubt was that simply on reflection, my interest in teaching was born too much out of my love of English, the arts and culture in general – and I probably hadn’t factored in enough that it would be hard to find the true sating of that passion within the arena of educating teenage kids, and I wasn’t hugely enamoured by the disciplinary and pedagogical aspects of teaching. Add to that, teaching seemed one of the most frustrating, time intensive and (undeservedly) financially unrewarding of professions, so eventually I decided to steer my attention to other fields.

Pardon the digression, but it’s somewhat instructive, because I think Laurent Cantet’s Palme d’Or winning The Class should be recommended viewing for any aspiring teacher. It’s not that it’s a sobering depiction of the profession per se. Far from it, in fact, and all teaching experiences will not mirror exactly what goes on in this film’s Parisian, inner-city classroom. It’s just that there’s something so inherently truthful and universal about what it shows, and, if anything, the success of The Class is in its seeming lack of rhetoric and polemicising: it’s neither documentary nor outright fiction film (more like a rehearsed set of typical incidents), and it’s neither overly idealistic nor cynical.

Particularly effective is the fact that though there is a slight build in narrative tension in the film’s third act, there’s no epiphanic ending (Malian teenager Souleymane isn’t saved from expulsion), and also the teacher himself, Mr Marin, does make some mistakes throughout the year by perhaps trying to overly engage with the students on their own level, but there’s no hammy, Notes on a Scandal-style sensation about his errors: he’s wrapped on the knuckles over an unfortunate comment he makes to a student, but it’s not allowed to override the generally positive effect he has on his class. (January 2014)

One Comment leave one →
  1. February 8, 2014 5:44 pm

    There doesn’t seem to be much of a direction here, except for just letting the camera and actors roll. That’s good and all, but after awhile, the improvisation does become slightly obvious. Good review Pat.

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