The Class [Entre Le Murs] (2008)

Posted: June 16, 2010 in Movie Reviews
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Director: Laurent Cantet

Cast: Francois Begaudeau, Wey Huang, Franck Keita and Esméralda Ouertani

Rating: 4 out of 5

The Class (Entre le murs) is a vibrant documentary style drama set in an inner city Parisian school. This remarkable film is a semi-autobiographical story of the novelist and lead actor Francois Begaudeau and his real life experiences as a teacher in a multi-racial school in Paris. The engrossing drama in the film comes from the unexpected results of interactions between a teacher and his pupils.

Francois Marin (Begaudeau) is a dedicated high school teacher who teaches French and grammar in a Paris high school. He tries his best to respect differences and challenges the students to do their best at the same time. We meet Sandra (Ouertani) who is a sharp-wit constantly pushing against authority. Wei (Huang) is the son of illegal Chinese immigrants whose mother could face possible deportation. Souleymane (Keita), an African student from Mali is a consistent disrupter who becomes the central focus of the film when it is debated whether or not he should be expelled from the school.

Begaudeau plays a version of himself realistically. The students in the classroom, who are not professional actors, are also very candidly portrayed with tremendous authenticity. All the characters are presented to the audience from real life, with all their shortcomings and good qualities. The Palme d’Or won by this film at Cannes is extremely well deserved as it has brought real life to the celluloid in an extremely engaging way.

The hand held camera work of the film adds a certain immediacy to the proceedings. By the end of the first half, you feel that you are in the midst of the chaotic classroom. The film becomes increasingly interesting when Marin discusses Plato’s ‘Republic’ with Sandra and the class. Also notable is a scene when a girl comes to him after the last bell rings for the year and says in all sincerity that she learned nothing at all in the year.

The Class is packed with social, ethical and psychological issues and is honest about racial tensions. What works best for the film is that it feels like a ‘slice-of-life.’ All in all, this is a strong, thought provoking and a very optimistic film. A must watch.

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