128 Minutes // France // Sony Picture Classics
dir. Laurent Cantet
Saturday, January 17th, 2009. Cumberland Four.
starring: Francois Begaudeau & Franck Keita
Entre les Murs (the class) is the latest installment out of the Dardenne ideals (handheld and humanistic) from France. Laurent Cantet reinvents the sub-genre by giving us introspective into scenarios the X generation have encountered and created, it seems – rowdy classes and broken teachers. Though it focuses primarily on a French class taught by Francois Marin (Francois Begaudeau, who also wrote the original novel and the adaptation) it cuts to the mentality and perspective of other teachers. Whether it be in a comedic or a dramatic light we acknowledge that everyone in this situation is a person, despite some of the students prior knowledge to the classroom authority.
Opposite to just about every other film about inner city corruption in youth, The Class never tries to answer these questions outside of psychological assumption made by the viewer. Its basically a documentary about school, but it never leaves the school to divulge deeper into any of the characters. Rather than the film being about helping kids get out of their slums and up their grades to launch themselves into a revolutionary uproar, The Class is about people just trying to get by. Its as realistic a film you’ll see in 2008 (most of the dialogue was improvised apparently) or perhaps ever.
The film progresses throughout a typical school year, beginning on the first day. Opening on a comedic get together of teachers greeting the new colleagues and getting their new schedules for the year, The Class shows the similarities between student and teacher before you see a kid. The teachers will warn other teachers about bad students alike students warning others about bad teachers when they get their schedules. Or whether it be the math teachers being the only teachers not being able to calculate the amount of years they’ve been teaching, in its opening five minutes it has already established the toll teaching can take on one person.
The Class takes place in a multi-cultured class in Metz, France. The students range from most races, but aren’t fine tuned to accept everyone for who they are (like plenty of teenagers). There is often mystery and controversy that causes a murky atmosphere because of the priority troublemaker Souleymane (Franck Keita), but then again, in a class of 24 there are plenty of misfits.
There is a riveting climax that isn’t similar to many I’ve ever seen. It will make you question the amount of power ordinary people should be able to have and the chain of events that can ruin a life.
In the end, The Class will give you a feverish perspective on authority and how its distributed, but not before you ride the Emotion Rollercoaster.