Review #7 The Class (Entre les Murs)

 

Directed by- Laurent Cantet

Starring- Francois Begaudeau, Agame Malembo-Emene and Angelica Sancio

 

I absolutely hated school. Hated it beyond belief, and didn’t understand why the teachers would want to teach the majority of pupils, therefore did not sympathize with the teachers. This movie changed that, a bit at least. I’m not sure how well known this film is, I first saw a trailer for it in French class at school several years ago, so I shall explain.

Based on a true story, with the teacher playing himself, M. Marin is a French teacher at an inner city school in Paris, and has unruly 14 and 15 year olds to deal with. They are loud, rude, vulgar, and make you completely lose faith in the human race. At one point they need to conjugate the verb ‘croire’ (which, if you’ve done more than 6 months of French, you should be able to do without any problems), and these kids actually can’t do it. It’s about Marin’s admirable efforts to make them want to learn, and tries to resolve the differences between both him and the other kids, emotionally, racially and intellectually. One kid (won’t be revealing who), even gets expelled, despite Marin’s mixed feelings about it. It’s a movie that shows limits, the limits teacher go towards and sometimes pass, and the building of limits during adolescence. However, there is one part at the end that gives you hope. One of the hopeless ones, Esmerelda, who does display some intelligence, reveals that she doesn’t read at school, but in her spare time read Plato’s Republic.

Foreign language movies aren’t for everyone, and not to stereotype, but I tend to group them by language and into genres. Spanish movies are usually quite psychological, German ones are about war (take your pick, one of the Worlds or Cold) and French about a way of life, think La Haine (a brilliant movie- watch it after this one).  The French do educational movies well, I watched one a few years ago called Etre et Avoir, actually a documentary about a school in a tiny town of about 200 people.

Entre les Murs is a good movie, and Marin is a multi-dimensional character. You see him try so hard to make the kids care and to understand them, but you also see him blow a fuse, showing he’s not the super-teacher that he might strive to be, but just human, a point he highlights. The students are commendable. They act so well- and the relationship and attitude they give Marin is beyond believable. There’s no real climax in the movie, maybe when one of the pupils gets expelled, or at the end, when the students are seen quite happily talking about what they learnt at school that year (a surprising amount). I thought at one point someone would pull a knife out, but I suppose that happens so rarely in France. The movie is set completely in the school, with the only real insight into students’ lives coming from the parents’ evening. I think this worked in the film’s favour. To be honest I wanted to know more, especially about Marin. Perhaps the book will give me a bit more of the insight I’m looking for.

Different. Reflective. Educational. French. Four stars.

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