Entre les murs (The Class)
Laurent Cantet, whose 2005 film Vers le Sud met with critical acclaim, triumphantly returns with Entre les Murs (The Class), an epic study of the everyday that won the coveted Palme d'Or at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival. Entre les Murs is adapted from a book by Parisian teacher and writer François Bégaudeau, who not only wrote the scenario for the film based on his teaching experiences, but also stars as the teacher to a group of fourteen-year-olds. The entire film is set within the confines of a school, and fascinatingly features real students and teachers (all of the students actually study together in the same class, though not in the school depicted in the film).
The premise is simple: Cantet, working with Bégaudeau and his students, held workshops with them to prepare for the film. Then, over the course of the year, three cameras followed the teacher and his pupils. The result is extraordinary. Never reaching for spectacle or melodrama, the director quietly observes the classroom setting and hits several pitch-perfect notes at once, mining the teacher-student relationship, the contemporary education system and the dynamics among the diverse and charismatic students.
Entre les Murs is a one-of-a-kind piece of filmmaking. Not a documentary in the strict sense of the term, the film indirectly explores the richly complex socio-political terrain of contemporary times by observing young teenagers move through a school year. In doing so, Cantet never employs some of the more obvious trappings of films like Dead Poets Society, opting instead to let the characters and their daily lives unfold before the camera in such a way that even the smallest moments become a revelation.
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