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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Class
The Plot
Working in a tough Parisian suburb, teacher François Marin (François Bégaudeau) thinks that he can turn around the fortunes of his unruly class. That is until his class turn on him.

The Review
The winner of the Palme d'Or at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival should definitely come with a health warning prior to viewing. It should warn...
Published on 14 Aug 2009 by C. MacLellan

versus
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great potential, but becomes ponderous
I had been looking forward to seeing this film since first hearing about its achievements at Cannes in 2008. The story is loosely based on the book "Entre Les Murs" - between the walls, François Marin is a teacher in a school for special needs / wayward and disadvantaged children, many of them from France's overseas territories or former colonies.

The first...
Published on 17 July 2009 by jrhartley


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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Class, 14 Aug 2009
By 
C. MacLellan (Glasgow, Scotland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Class [DVD] [2008] (DVD)
The Plot
Working in a tough Parisian suburb, teacher François Marin (François Bégaudeau) thinks that he can turn around the fortunes of his unruly class. That is until his class turn on him.

The Review
The winner of the Palme d'Or at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival should definitely come with a health warning prior to viewing. It should warn all potential teachers to avoid watching the film, as once they watch it, they're likely to be put off teaching for life. They should then be provided with an emergency copy of School of Rock and a tub of Ben and Jerry's.

The Class's original French title, Entre les murs, or Between The Walls, is probably a better title for the film, as the classroom at its centre serves as a cauldron of clashes, not only between the teacher and his 24 students, but between the students themselves. During the school year, there are many ups and downs, with the cauldron continuing to bubble and boil over at certain points. What makes the film all the more brilliant is that this could be any class, in any school.

François Bégaudeau has the real life experience, having written a book on his time in the classroom and this comes across in his performance in the lead role. He is an idealist, constantly pushing the boulder up the hill, simply for it to continue slipping back down. The use of real students, teachers and parents also adds to the authenticity of the film.

The Verdict
A lesson in conflict and communication, The Class has much to teach us about education and attitudes towards it.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking and scary, 23 Dec 2009
This review is from: The Class [DVD] [2008] (DVD)
A very good film to watch. Unlike other reviewers, I didn't find this at all ponderous or too talky. Instead, it was thought provoking and scarily accurate. Although a primary teacher, there were still many scenes which struck a chord e.g. the pupils' apparent disinclination to learn, the awkwardness of parents' evening and the powerlessness of teachers to understand the viewpoint of their students. Particularly scary is one of the final scenes when a pupil confesses that she has understood nothing and the teacher can only utter useless platitudes.

The film offers no solutions to the underlying conflict between teachers and pupils. There is no Hollywood-type ending and the film is all the better for it.

I had a few problems with the translated subtitles and would have appreciated subtitles in French to understand some of the slang the children used.

Highly recommended.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great potential, but becomes ponderous, 17 July 2009
This review is from: The Class [DVD] [2008] (DVD)
I had been looking forward to seeing this film since first hearing about its achievements at Cannes in 2008. The story is loosely based on the book "Entre Les Murs" - between the walls, François Marin is a teacher in a school for special needs / wayward and disadvantaged children, many of them from France's overseas territories or former colonies.

The first hour or so the film develops well, introducing the main protagonists and the inevitable tensions between them all starting to build - François's frustrations at their inattention to his teachings, the student's frustrations at his inability to empathise and defend them against bad behaviour charges, the frictions of a new boy from the West Indies arriving and clashing with the existing top student dog from Mali, the risk of the class itself turning the tables on the teacher and seeing him expelled from the school.... you have the feeling that the film is building to a crescendo.

I don't want to spoil the movie for others by revealing the end, but all I will say is that, as is so typically the case with some modern 'art house' French cinema, there seems to be a huge reticence to leave anything on the cutting room floor. The scene where the teachers were voting on the future of Souleymane is verging on OTT as the camera follows the transparent ballot box around the teachers and they drop in their folded voting slips. I expect the director may believe there is huge visual metaphor in that - the 'supposed transparency yet closedness' of the school disciplinary process, but I found it laboured and pretentious. And disappointingly, after about 75 minutes in, this is how the films goes, overly ponderous and lingering.

Don't get me wrong - it's a decent film, but one I'd rather have watched lounging around in the comfort of my own home on DVD, when I could have pressed pause and interspersed it with a few shots of Absinthe, not a film to sit for two hours plus upright in a cinema auditorium. In brief - would have benefited from better editing. 6.5/10.0
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25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Class, a passionate film that blurs the line between fiction and reality, 15 May 2009
By 
Elias M (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Class [DVD] [2008] (DVD)
The Class, set in a tough, ethnically diverse comprehensive school on the edge of Paris, follows a group of students and their teacher, whose interactions with one another are sometimes amicable and, at other times, combative. The Class is neither a documentary nor is it, strictly speaking, a docudrama. It is a drama which blurs the line between fiction and reality. Cantet achieved the film's true-to-life feel by using real kids and their teachers from Francoise Dolto Junior High in Paris's 20th arrondissement instead of actors - in much the same tradition as Gillo Pontecorvo's masterpiece, The Battle of Algiers; Ken Loach's Poor Cow and Kes; and more recently Saul Dibb's Bullet Boy. These directors were successful in "engineering" an understated simplicity in their works, as well as creating a heightened sense of realism, achieved by using non-actors to play the main roles, and diverging from a written script. In an interview Cantet revealed no dialogue was written, although a framework story for the students was provided. He also held weekly improv sessions for eight months with the actors, including Francois Begaudeau (who plays the teacher, and also authored the novel and co-authored the screenplay). This process created a sense of spontaneity in each of the scenes. The Class was made with the relatively low budget of 2.3 million euros: It was shot using three high definition cameras (one pointed at the teacher, another on the student at the centre of the scene, and a third camera poised to capture moments of digression).
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Authentic and moving, 4 Dec 2010
By 
William Cohen (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Class [DVD] [2008] (DVD)
I didn't know whether this film was a documentary or a drama, it turns out that it's the latter, but its appeal is that it feels like reality and evokes the dilemmas and problems experienced by teachers in a secondary school.

It's long, but I stuck with it and it's very satisfying. I don't know how they managed to act it so beautifully, the teacher, Mr Marin, is superb. You really get into his shoes and feel his idealism and his frustration. You see when he makes a mistake by calling two pupils- petasses - and you can see the trouble that's coming. I also enjoyed the perspective on teaching children from many different cultures. Also, it's a great way to refresh your French as there is loads of dialogue which is clear and engaging.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars absorbing and astonishingly convincing, 27 Mar 2009
By 
Mr. Ian A. Macfarlane "almac1975" (Fife, Scotland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Class (Entre les murs) [DVD] (DVD)
This film centres on a secondary school in Paris and one class, a group of 15-year-olds of mixed background - French, North African, Chinese. As term begins they meet their French teacher again - he was their teacher in the previous session - and work with him. They are a lively and vocal group, not at all an easy class to teach, and he operates a system of banter to focus their minds on the work they have to do. He never gives in to them - to do so would be a major mistake - but challenges them and confronts them and tries to make them think and thereby learn. By and large they like him and a good deal of what happens is good-natured - though it must be exhausting for the teacher, who has to be quick on his feet all the time. The work of the school as a whole, the attitudes of the staff and of the parents, come into the film as well, but as the English title suggests, that one class is the centre-point of the film and the bulk of it takes place in that classroom.

I found the film riveting, largely, I think because the behaviour of the kids was so convincing. I was a teacher for 34 years, and I recognised the strategies they use again and again from my own experience. The classroom dynamics, too, with a small number of dominant pupils, lively, quick-witted, not all positively inclined, not all fair or 'nice' people, and a larger number of more passive (or, to be fair, perhaps just less noticeable) individuals, was very recognisable. In terms of verisimilitude, this film scored high.

There are some plot strands, the main one of which concerns a Malian pupil, Soulemeyn (I am sure that is not how you spell him!), who is complex and difficult. His story plays out through the film and comes to its climax fairly near the end. We see the teachers in the staffroom too, an impressive group but far from idealised, with different views of how the pupils should best be handled , but generally sympathetic, generally realistic about them. We see staff meetings, a parents' evening, school board meetings, a disciplinary procedure. There is confrontation, humour, sometimes a sense of insoluble problems (as with the Chinese boy, popular, accepted and something of a star, Wey). Almost always I was convinced by what was on screen, though there were one or two moments when the film-makers' hands were faintly evident.

The film has been widely praised. There have been lots of school films, from 'To Sir with Love' to 'If'. On the grounds of realism and involvement of the watcher, I think this film is first-rate.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Class, 17 Oct 2011
By 
Moonlit (scotland) - See all my reviews
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The High School film where an idealistic young teacher meets up with a bunch of tough kids is a well worn genre. In many of these films the teacher battles against their pupils and wins them over at the end so that they achieve their potential. Such endings are often sentimental and a little simplistic. Not so with this assured French film.

The film opens with staff at a multi-racial Parisian school welcoming new colleagues. They helpfully go through the class lists with the new teachers, pointing out who's nice and who isn't ('gentil, pas gentil, pas, pas, pas). Francois the protagonist of this film has been teaching there for four years and has worked out a modus operandi with the pupils, pushing them to their intellectual limit, bantering with them but never giving in. It seems to work. But this year things start to go wrong. He has a major fall out with one pupil who claims he picks on her, another pupil, Souleymane, causes grief to many of the teachers, and the mouthy Esmeralda is a major pain in the neck.

Many things were surprising in the film. The lessons on French grammar, which seemed way above the level of anything taught to 14/15 year olds in comprehensives here were illuminating. The pseudo democracy which led to parents being at teachers' meetings (including a disciplinary hearing) but having no effective say in anything. Most of all, the inclusion of pupils in a meeting where other pupils' behaviour and progress was discussed was a little unbelievable and I do wonder if this actually happens in France. It seems to me to be completely unethical to discuss such things when pupils are present and it was no surprise that it led to the disastrous outcome that it did.

Overall, a thought provoking, funny and moving film. A must see.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very important movie, 30 Aug 2010
This review is from: The Class [DVD] [2008] (DVD)
Excellent movie and an example of social realism at its best and how refreshing it was to watch a film that portrayed the lives of ordinary people.

The movies captures well some of the ethical debates in teaching, for example the tensions inherent in liberal teaching methods and understanding the behaviour of unruly teenagers, and the need to punish and correct bad behaviour. The film does this to perfection and avoids moralising and sentimentality, leaving viewers to make up their own minds.

This film should be essential viewing not just for educationalists but for anyone with an interest in young people and soceity. And whilst the film is about a French school, highlighting problems particular to French society, there is also many messages applicalble to the teaching profession and young people in Britain today.

I thoroughly recommend this movie which is one of the best films I have seen this year.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fantastic must-see movie, 27 Jan 2010
By 
Bookish (Berkshire, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Class [DVD] [2008] (DVD)
I didn't know much about the film before watching it and so didn't know what to expect. I was largely able to forget that this isn't actually a documentary and became completely absorbed by the pupils and teachers. This film is at once moving, shocking and at times funny. I particularly loved the scene where Souleymane's photos are put up on the wall and he is unable to disguise his pride. Left me wanting more - what happened to Wei and his family? I still find myself thinking about the issues raised and would love to read Bégaudeau's book. A must-see.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking and engaging, 19 April 2014
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A drama with the feel of a fly-on-the-wall documentary which draws you in with its presentation of a French teacher's experience of teaching in a challenging Paris secondary school.

Plenty to engage with here... the sometimes narrow-minded and confrontational nature of teachers, the rigidity of the French educational system, the outlook and attitude of the teacher...

You will find a lot to take away from this film and be impressed by the illusion of reality that it creates. Watch it!
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