18 February 2010

Review: "The Class" (Entre les Murs)

When I first heard about The Class I thought that it was a documentary about an inner city school in Paris. It turns out that the film is based on the real life accounts of François Bégaudeau, a language and literature teacher. The film premiered at Cannes in 2008 to critical acclaim, and became the first French film in 21 years to win the coveted Palme d'Or. It was then nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the 2009 Academy Awards - losing to Departures from Japan. On a side note, I think that Best Foreign Language Film is a poor choice of words, and prefer the BAFTA's choice, Best Film Not in the English Language. The Class, based on Bégaudeau's 2006 novel, is directed by Laurent Cantet, whose work I had not seen before. The film looks at one teacher's interactions with his homeroom class, which include a diverse range of personalities and backgrounds. The film does not show the characters beyond the walls of the school and, although we know little about the characters, the film is engrossing and provoking.

François Bégaudeau is entering his fourth year at an inner city school in Paris. He knows most of his students from the previous year, and he appears to be a devoted teacher. His class includes many problem students, which include Esmerelda, Khoumba and Souleymane, but there are also hardworking students like Wei and Louise. The Class unfolds over the course of a school year and we witness the highs of lows of the class atmosphere. The major events of the film take place inside the four walls of the classroom, hence the original French title Entre les Murs (Between the Walls). It is also interesting to watch how François interacts with colleagues and how their views of the students differ. One of the most powerful scenes in the film for me was watching the parent-teacher conferences. It is a wonderful film that invites you into a brief moment in the students' lives and leaves you craving more.

As a new teacher I found the film fascinating and it made me feel hopeful. There are a considerable number of heartbreaking scenes that left me feeling devastated, but I know that a teacher only plays a small role in a student's life. The Class belongs to the young group of students, whose tremendous talent create a wonderfully vibrant and diverse classroom. I have always loved French films, but I was still amazed by how much I loved this film. I was engrossed from beginning to end and recommend it to anyone and everyone!

My rating: 4 stars out of 4.

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