Films by Year
Films by Director
Films by Actor
Films by Actress
Films by Alphabet
TOP 100 MOVIES in 2008!
Teacher and novelist François Bégaudeau plays a version of himself as he negotiates a year with his racially mixed students from a tough Parisian neighborhood.
OSCAR NOMINEE for Best Foreign Language Film of the Year
CLICK HERE and Watch More Drama Movies for FREE!
Most movies treat teachers as kinds of secular saints, endowing their students with life lessons that transcend the curriculum. From Goodbye, Mr. Chips to Dead Poets Society, films praise teachers for their noble efforts to educate our young, both shielding them from the dangers of the outside world and simultaneously providing them the tools with which to confront it. A cocktail of nostalgia and gratitude usually obscures the more complicated, more authentic reality that far from an escape from society at large, the classroom is a microcosm of it.
The Class is the story of one academic year in the lives of Mr. Marin (Francois Begaudeau) and his students at an urban Parisian school. The film is presented through the basic cycle of the school year beginning at the excitement of the first day and ending with the relief of summer vacation. The students are representative of the ethnic, cultural, and social diversity in Paris, ranging from Malian to Moroccan. This diversity severely complicates Mr. Marin’s attempts to teach French.
In The Class, director Laurent Cantet achieves a sense of authenticity. By casting Begaudeau, who wrote the semi-autobiographical novel upon which the film is based, as Mr. Marin and untrained actors using their real names as the students, Cantet creates a realness to the performances, which may have been otherwise impossible to elicit. Begaudeau knows from his own experience how teachers and students interact, and the students embody the energy and anxiety of early adolescence. Also, he films in a documentary-style to distract the audience from the fictional narrative. This provides an even-handedness to the concerns of both teacher and students. Finally, and most importantly, we see nothing outside the confines of the school. Occasionally, we are given hints at the lives of Mr. Marin or his students when school is out, but our focus remains firmly on the class as a social unit.
The classroom as social commentary is not without precedent, but most American films are only interested in examining status – those lunch hall cliques. Cantet presses broader questions about the complexities of living in a multicultural society. From the outset, the students and the teacher have different expectations. Mr. Marin expects his students want to learn so that they can better their lives.
As in any class, though, power is not evenly distributed. The teacher is expected to maintain authority. How that authority is exercised is difficult in any environment, but even more so amongst such conflicting cultural norms. When a student is punished, he or she believes that they are being “singled out” or that Mr. Marin is “seeking revenge.” For a class that holds onto their ethnicities and refuses to call themselves French, Mr. Marin is a symbol for their new alien home, and the ambivalent feelings towards their teacher mirrors their view of France itself. Although some of the students’ rebelliousness is a product of normal adolescent behavior, the essential disparity in power means that classroom harmony is tenuous and can be disrupted at the slightest provocation. Not unlike the “real world.”
The Class was both highly praised, winning the Palme d’Or at Cannes, and highly controversial in France. But the issues underscored in the film have implications for all multicultural societies. The fundamental questions are those with which philosophers from Plato’s time have struggled. What are the ends of education? How do competing interests work towards the common good? What is the legitimate use of authority? What are the moral obligations of society to its youth? Cantet does not provide any easy answers in The Class. But how we answer them is the ultimate final exam.