Review by Jack Foley
LAURENT Cantet’s Palme d’Or winner The Class is a richly absorbing observational tale that’s both confrontational and inspirational in equal measure.
Set in a Parisian junior school, and co-written by its star, Francois Begaudeau, the film follows the fortunes of one class over the course of a year, as inspired by Begaudeau’s own experiences of teaching.
The teenage cast are all non-professional actors drawn from school volunteers and – while not playing themselves – they give raw, natural performances that lend the film a fly-on-the-wall type of feeling.
The dialogue, too, is fresh, sometimes improvised and openly provocative, especially in scenes that deliberately tip-toe the boundary between respect and overstepping the mark.
Yet, it’s a measure of Cantet’s film that it expertly taps into the frustrations felt by both teacher and students, and shows how difficult it is to inspire or command respect within its contemporary setting.
No one side is painted as being overtly good or bad, with even Begaudeau’s teacher forced to live with the consequences of his open, refreshing approach to the profession. It quite literally comes back to haunt him on a couple of occasions and lands him in a lot of trouble.
Yet the students, too, are a mixed bunch – some of whom thrive under the freedom afforded to them by Begaudeau’s inclusive approach, while others abuse the freedoms and subsequently face the school’s tough punishments.
The Class is, at the end of the day, a film experience that’s sure to leave you thinking about it for some time afterwards, as well as debating the rights and wrongs contained within. It’s an excellent film that comes highly recommended.
In French, with subtitles
Running time: 128mins
UK DVD Release: June 15, 2009