F.I.L.M. of the Week (May 14, 2010)

14 05 2010

With the kickoff of the Cannes Film Festival this week, it seems fitting that the “F.I.L.M. of the Week” honor a recent winner of their most prestigious prize, the Palme D’Or.  That winner would be “The Class,” the French film which also scored an Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Film.  The movie is an interesting look at an at-risk classroom in France from the preliminary teacher meetings in summer to the final bell of the year.  It particularly concerns itself with the style and methods of the teacher, François Marin.

It’s supposedly semi-autobiographical, but I would have completely believed it was a documentary.  The film is shot with a very realistic style, using mostly long, drawn-out scenes in the classroom.  These work effectively to show us not only what teaching to a class of lazy and uninspired students is like, but also to introduce us to the students and Marin.

Most of the movie serves to make us ponder about Marin’s tactics as a teacher.  What makes him a good teacher?  Why can he inspire some students but not all of them?  What are his weaknesses?  You don’t have to be teacher to find it thought-provoking.  Marin fights not only for their attentiveness, but he also has to act as a mediator between ethnic conflicts.  With such a diverse class, harsh words often fly.  I can’t think of a better and more honest portrayal of such issues than this movie.

One more note (and I have to thank Brokenprojector.com for these observations): the original title of the movie in French was Entre les murs, which is literally translated as “Between the Walls.”  Indeed, “The Class” does take place between the walls.  The camera never leaves the school, but more than that, it alludes to both the teachers and students being trapped inside a school, neither being able to come up with a solution that can serve as an ultimate panacea.

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