The Class (Entre Les Murs)

The class Year: 2008

Writers: François Bégaudeau (book & screenplay), Robin Campillo, Laurent Cantet

Director: Laurent Cantet

Budget: ?

Gross: ?

The Class is a 'school-drama' unlike any you have probably ever seen.  there is no teacher who comes in and saves the students by teaching them how to dance, or write or start a poetry club... the kids don't end the school year so much better off then when it started with some great life lesson... instead this is a school-drama with a teacher that is good at his job - although he doesn't always do the right thing - students from various backgrounds who sometimes respect him and other times don't and end the year knowing a little more then they did nine months previous, but that's about it... it is also probably the best classroom-drama i have ever seen and one of the best films of the year...

i don't know if technically it would be called dogma or neo-realism or something else, but i do know that the editing, the style of filming and the brilliant performances from all involved make The Class feel like a documentary, as if you are being let into the actual middle school and classroom in a parisian suburb for one school year.

we are there when the kids joke around, when they ask question after question after question, when they get in trouble, when the teachers complain about how they can't do it anymore, when a student possibly goes to far, when the teachers discuss what disciplinary action should be taken, etc.....

françois bégaudeau, who plays the teacher, co-wrote the screenplay, based on his book, based on his actual experiences as a teacher for many years.  the kids in the film are all really outstanding and the completely natural way they play their roles blew me away.  from what i could find out, most of the teen actors hadn't done much, if any, acting before this film, which makes their performances that much more impressive - its not a totally new thing to work with non-actors (think gus van sants Elephant, or sodenberg's Bubble) but these kids were vitally important to the film...

the film didn't have some crazy visual style or big plot point to distract an audience from the amateur actors. in fact, the film is very dialogue-heavy and spends long periods of time on scenes that in most films would be cut much shorter - which would make any bad 'amateur' acting that much more distracting and/or detrimental to the film.

i talk often on the podcast, and in these discussions, about films that respect or don't respect the audience.  The Class respects its audience and treats us like an intelligent moviegoer, rather then some short-attention span drone who can't handle scenes that go on for more then a few minutes and don't end with large dramatic moments or big bursts of the musical score. in fact, i don't think there was any score music througout the entire film.. in The Class scenes go as long as they have to go, not as long as they think an audience can handle, and conversations really feel true, the way conversations do in life - with some things being repeated, people getting cut off, ideas being argued back and forth and resolutions not always coming easily and completely.

sure its a little long and slow at times, but it is an excellent film and i wouldn't want it any other way.