The Class (2008)


Director: Laurent Cantet
Writer: Francois Begaudeau

On it says that entre les murs translates directly to English as “Between the Walls”. I rather like this title better than the simple “The Class” because it describes the film better. Laurent Cantet, along with novelist/screenwriter/real life teacher Francois Begaudeau, create a film that captures the tale rather than tells it, which I find a strength of the film, not a flaw. The camera is not there to be over dramatic or over comedic, but to let us in on a little piece of this classroom headed by Mr. Marin.

The tale does not have a plot per se, but rather a premise. There is a conflict and an ending, but the film is not about that, it is about Mr. Marin and the kids in his class. Much of what we see is not of the kids learning, it is more of the kids interacting with each other and with Mr. Marin. A lot of it is inspiring as a teacher of the future myself, but a lot of it is also quite heartbreaking, from the perspective of future teacher student, and a human being. The neighborhood where this takes place is a rough place, most of the kids referring to it as their ‘hood. Most of the kids have it rough and are culturally diverse, encountering numerous racial conflicts in the classroom, the African Cup of Nations comes to mind.

At the end of the school year they discuss what they have learned that year in school. I felt for Mr. Marin based on their answers. No one mentioned anything about his French class, and a couple of them even said they did not learn anything all year. My heart broke. Teachers put a lot into getting their students to succeed and learn how to be citizens of society and Mr. Marin is a great example of this. Does he have his flaws? Of course, every human does. He makes one particular mistake that has to do with the incident mentioned before, but can you blame him at that point? With everything that takes place in his classroom and all he has to do to keep his cool and deflect everything the students are doing or saying, I was shocked to see him lash out only twice during the film. Once was in private and even subdued and the other was ill-timed. He does much better than Vincent, who, in one scene, walks into the teachers lounge fuming.

I would suggest this to anyone interested in children, especially teenagers, or anyone interested in teaching. It is quite powerful stuff with things that I most assuredly missed the first time. I cannot wait to return to this and see all the little details that I have missed.

***1/2 – Great

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