The Class (Entre les murs)

entrelemurs DIR: Laurent Cantet • WRI: François Bégaudeau • PRO: Caroline Benjo, Carole Scotta • DOP: Pierre Milon • ED: Robin Campillo • CAST: François Bégaudeau, Nassim Amrabt, Laura Baquela, Cherif Bounaïdja Rachedi

The Class (Entre les murs) is a drama set in a Parisian inner-city state school. It mainly centres on a French literature class in the school. ‘Entre les Murs’ literally means between the walls; the film is set in the classroom and, as we rarely leave the classroom, most of the action happens here. The film is based on the book of the same name by former teacher François Bégaudeau (who appears in the film as the teacher François Marin). The book is semi-autobiographical and is inspired by Bégaudeau’s own experiences as a teacher. The film won the Palme d’Or at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival, the first French film to do so in 21 years.

The film follows François Marin for a school year as he teaches French literature to his students and tries to inspire them with his subject. The students of the class are played by real school children and the banter between them and their teacher is very realistic. The shaky camera adds to the whole documentary feeling of the film. This is a very realistic portrayal of a year in a classroom, seeing how a teacher struggles to make his students interested in the subject he’s teaching. Despite some students’ obvious apathy, he doesn’t stop trying. I’m sure that any teachers watching the film would be able to identify with Marin’s frustration with his students.

But do keep in mind, this isn’t a French Dangerous Minds or Dead Poets Society. Like in real life, some students respond to the teacher and some don’t. These are all individuals who will end up going down different paths in life – the film doesn’t end with the students carrying Marin out on their shoulders.

The film is an interesting concept and worth watching. However, I do think that if I wasn’t so long out of the classroom myself I would have found the film more interesting or enjoyable. I have to admit that at times I felt like I had seen all this before, that I knew these people and that I’d even had classes with them. But perhaps that shows just how authentic this film actually is.

Nessa O’Hara
(See biog here)

Rated 12A (see IFCO website for details)
The Class
is released on 27th February 2009
The Class – Official Website