How do we learn to live with others and their wishes? Director Nicolas Philibert poses this question in a village schoolhouse in Auvergne, where Georges Lopez teaches 13 children, ages ranging from about four to 12. Against a landscape of mountains and farmland, from driving snow to rain to sun, the children gather in Lopez's warm and colorful classroom, to read, write dictation, cook, and sort things out. At home, the older ones do homework with parents after their chores. At year's end, they look ahead to the next, visiting the middle school and meeting the little ones coming in the fall. As they learn sums and adjectives, with Lopez's help, they also learn to live side by side. Written by
Any criticism of this movie would be made by those who didn't open their minds enough to it. Despite being incredibly slow, it is never tedious due to the nature of the cast. Filmed during a few months in a single room class in rural France, Etre et Avoir (To Be and to Have) is one of the most touching studies of youth to be put to film. It captures the changing of seasons in particular to moving effect. As a child develops, succeeds and as we see them grow, so too does our perception of the patient teacher (Georges Lopez). So effective in its communication is this film that, without being heavy handed or tedious, it provides us time to digest exactly what we are watching. A real slow burn and very memorable.
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