Teacher François Marin and his colleagues are preparing for another school year teaching at a racially mixed inner city high school in Paris. The teachers talk to each other about their prospective students, both the good and the bad. The teachers collectively want to inspire their students, but each teacher is an individual who will do things in his or her own way to achieve the results they desire. They also have differing viewpoints on the students themselves, and how best to praise and discipline them. The administration of the school tries to be as fair as possible, which includes having student representatives sit on the student evaluation committee. Marin's class this year of fourteen and fifteen year olds is no different than previous years, although the names and faces have changed. Marin tries to get through to his students, sometimes with success and sometimes resulting in utter failure. Even Marin has his breaking point, which may result in him doing things he would ...Written by
I watched another French film in a row (after ""Il y a Longtemps que Je T'aime"). "Entre Le Murs" (known in English as "the Class") is the French bet for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, and also the first French film to win the Palm D'Or of the Cannes Film Festival in 20 years. It is simply begging to be seen, so I did, despite knowing nothing about its subject matter.
"The Class" turns out to be a documentary-like movie about the tense interaction between teacher and students in a French multiracial high school. In particular, the film follows French grammar teacher Francois Marin who would like to think of himself as a progressive teacher who employs the interactive and self-discovery classroom technique, rather than by traditional lecture style.
However, most of his students are disturbingly belligerent, frank and disrespectful. The main conflict is with a particularly insolent Mali boy named Souleymane who has violent outbursts in class. But there are other students too from Tunisia, Morocco, China, the Caribbean, etc.. all of whom with their own personality and issues which the teacher has to deal with.
Everything in this film is very realistic indeed. It becomes even more personal after knowing that the lead actor who played Mr. Marin is Francois Begaudeau, who actually wrote the semi-autobiographical book about his experiences as a teacher, as well as adapted his own book for this film's screenplay. This is another instance when I am sure a lot of the richness of the language interplay will be lost in the subtitled translations.
A lot of people will find this film boring because of the two hour length, the single setting within the school, and no additional personal side stories about the teachers and students. But with my recent foray into the theory of Education in Graduate School, this film is quite an eye-opener about how different the school situation is these days. Definitely, this film has no Hollywood story arc and uplifting ending. It just tells the situation as it is. And that is precisely where its strength is.
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