March 17, 2010
" Entre Le Murs" or "The Class" - Different from Others In Its Genre
Thanks to berenice, one of my blogger friends, I rented Laurent Cantet's "The Class" a French film that had won the Cannes Film Festival in 2008. Frankly, I had very little expectations from this film; how different could be from a "Stand and Deliver", or a "To Sir with Love", and several others in that category. What could this French film maker tell the audience about inner city schools that hadn't already been said?
"The Class" apparently had nothing new to address ; Cantet "wanted it to be the story of 25 people - a teacher and his students - who didn't choose to be together, but are between four walls for an entire year." The movie is based on Francois Begaudeau's novel who "wasn't writing in order to get back at adolescents presented as savages or idiots" nor did he see his school "like a sanctuary, sheltered from the world, where children are taught wonderful things." His class comprises of unruly inner city kids that are mouthy, mean, belligerent, and stubborn. They "don't have simple lives. They're all different races, with different backgrounds." As a result there are no simple solutions to this failing inner school, and that is perhaps the message, if any, that one takes away from Cantet's docudrama. He exposes the exclusion that schools can create, and the school in the movie does just that in its portrayal of Suleyman or even an Esmeralda.
All the action in the movie is in the dialogue exchange between the students and the teacher. There is no one life changing event that takes place in the movie, neither is there a hero poised to win your hearts. It's the presentation of life as it unfolds each day in an inner city school in France where the socioeconomic realities and the ethnic tensions of a multi cultural society inhibit any kind of normalcy.
Despite the fact that the movie has no overt message to convey, it does leave the audience pondering over issues such as marginalization in society, education in a multicultural society, and immigration. For an educator or a student viewer, I would suggest you watch this movie at your own risk; it offers no answers, and this is not your usual feel-good-at-the-end-movie either; it is movie that slowly and steadily nudges you out of a comfort zone!