This week for UCFS’s weekly screening series is The Class (Entre les murs), a 2008 Palme D’Or winning French film about a teacher’s experience at a rough-hewn, racially mixed Parisian high school. Here’s three reasons why you should watch this film:
1. Teen angst, re-fracted
The Class is part of our “teen movie” series, but it might not be entirely accurate to classify this film as a teen movie. Where most teen movies, like our last showing Rebel without a Cause, focus on the heightened emotions of teenaged angst, The Class instead takes more of a sociological view. Sure there’s teen angst, but it’s teen angst from the point of view of the teacher, a perspective often underrepresented in film. The Class is quite effective at conveying the frustration of having to deal with twenty mini-Rebels without a Cause every day, and the idealism one must have to occupy the role of teacher. If not for anything else, watch it to see whether you can spot yourself in one of the many characters.
2. Class conflict
“Class conflict” may be a bad pun, but it also accurately describes The Class’s relevance, even today. Given France and Europe’s problems with immigration and identity, The Class’s exploration of the charged territory of race, ethnicity, class, and language in contemporary French society gives the film an anxious, uneasy quality. Education is presented in the film as not only a potential solution to these issues, but perhaps even an unwitting catalyst, as it expresses “right” and “wrong” ideals of French-ness. In its multifaceted exploration of how ethnic differences and class differences intersect, and how a classroom might be a microcosm for society as a whole, The Class is a great example of the sociological potential of cinema.
3. French Neo-Realism
The circumstances of The Class’s production is compelling in itself; it is based on a novel by a former teacher writing about his previous experience (Francois Bégaudeau), but also is written by, and starring that same person. The actors are all non-actors chosen from similar classroom situations, and asked to play themselves. The camera is handheld, giving the film a documentary-style quality. What this amounts to is an incredibly authentic-seeming experience, one that mirrors the experience of teaching at such a school, for the camera not once leaves the grounds of the school. Students enter, are given lectures, and then leave, but we are left with a frustrating incomplete portraits of the students, because we don’t get any glimpses into their home life. But that is how a teacher struggles with every day, and the film does well in allowing us to empathize with his Sisyphean task.
If these three reasons have piqued your interest about The Class, come in and catch it on Friday, November 6, at 5:00 PM in SS203. We hope to see you in class.
By Kevin Dong