• Post category:Movies
  • Post last modified:January 11, 2022

The Class: Every Day is a Battle

I remember being part of a class that once attached a note to the backside of an overweight substitute teacher that read “Wide Load”. In those moments, any teacher would be forgiven for thinking that kids are evil. The French film The Class has a scene where two students behave so obnoxiously that the teacher ends up calling them “sluts”. Immediately realizing his mistake, he tries to backpedal a little bit without losing control of his rowdy class. In Laurent Cantet’s film, everything’s a battle.

Knows how to handle difficult classes
Another autumn, another school year begins. New and old teachers get to know each other at a suburban middle school outside of Paris. One of them is François Marin (François BĂ©gaudeau) who teaches French and literature and has been working there for a few years. He has become somewhat of a veteran who knows how to handle difficult classes, but has no illusions regarding what his students can and can’t do; his ambitions are kept on a realistic level. As the year progresses, Marin tries to understand why one of his students, Khoumba (Rachel Regulier), suddenly has become a handful; she showed a lot of promise last spring, but something happened over summer that changed her.

Another student, Souleymane (Franck KeĂŻta), can’t control his temper and will soon face the possibility of expulsion – something his parents, who escaped Mali, won’t take lightly…

Based on real life experiences
We’ve seen many movies where a bright teacher miraculously whips a ghetto class into shape, and this film is no huge exception. Still, it was based on real life experiences made by BĂ©gaudeau when he was working as a teacher in a school in the 20th arrondissement of Paris. The Class never feels like it is constrained by a formula; it may end “happily”, but not in a way that feels neatly packaged. BĂ©gaudeau plays himself more or less (one must assume) and does a very credible job as the teacher; much of the film focuses on his classroom rapport with the students and there’s a lot of hard work behind it. The filmmakers essentially built a class out of a workshop, which kids signed up for. The result is a relationship between teacher and class that feels exceptionally genuine. The story shows the world what the French educational system looks like, for better or worse, and asks important questions. When does the system work and when is it failing? What are the consequences?

The movie doesn’t necessarily offer answers, but points out what’s worth debating. That certainly includes the teacher himself, who is early on accused by his students of mocking them. Since the story takes place in the suburbs, immigration is also broached. The problem with Souleymane is not as simple as some of the teachers want to believe; a language barrier and failure to understand the wider picture could mean disaster for the individual.

Some of the scenes become sort of tiring to watch… which is a perfect illustration of the kind of patience that is required by Marin and his colleagues. Few other professionals would accept being treated this way at work. Still, that closing scene where he’s asking the students what they’ve learned this year is absolutely disarming. Sometimes, even battles result in something positive.

The Class 2008-France. 124 min. Color. Widescreen. Produced by Simon Arnal, Caroline Benjo, Barbara Letellier, Carole Scotta. Directed by Laurent Cantet. Screenplay: Laurent Cantet, Robin Campillo, François Bégaudeau. Book: François Bégaudeau. Cast: François Bégaudeau (François Marin), Nassim Amrabt (Nassim), Laura Baquela (Laura), Cherif Bounaïdja Rachedi, Juliette Demaille, Esméralda Ouertani.

Trivia: Original title: Entre les murs.

Cannes: Palme d’Or. 

Last word: “The film is not a real adaptation of the book. It’s more an extension of the book. It means that I use a lot of things coming from the book, all the documentary aspect of the film. François BĂ©gaudeau, the writer of the book, has been a teacher for 10 years. He knew that world much better than I do. He had a point of view from inside that I would never get. Even though I stayed in the classroom watching lessons I wouldn’t get this kind of insight. So it was important for me to get this image. But I also wrote the part of the film that is not in the book, which is all the narrative story. The story of Souleymane comes out of the book progressively in the film. And we followed his story and it becomes the story of the film which is not in the book. François accepted that there would be two aspects of the film: his book and the part of the film that I wrote without him.” (Cantet, Radio Television Hong Kong)



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