Directed by: Laurent Cantet
Countries & Regions: France
Length: 130 mins
Region: Region 2
Released: 22 March 2010
Cat No: ART454DVD
If you are unhappy with your purchase, you can return it to us within 30 days. More Details
The Class (Cantet, 2008)
Laurent Cantet directs this award-winning French drama based on the book by teacher Francois Begaudeau, which chronicles a year in the... Read More
In the beginning, there was the word. Laurent Cantet’s justly lauded account of contemporary classroom life owes its existence to a bestselling tome published by former teacher François Bégaudeau in 2006. Two years on at Cannes, jury foreman Sean Penn would describe Cantet’s adaptation, which came out of nowhere to take the Palme d’Or at the last minute, and would go on to land an Oscar nod for Best Foreign Language Film, as the one truly political work he and his fellow jurors had seen all festival.
Penn was right: Cantet’s film, like the book before it, acknowledges the school as one of the few fully political sites in society, and (in theory, at least) a democratic one at that: a place where everyone gets a say ‘as long as they’re polite’. The director, known for piercing analyses of the modern workplace (Human Resources, Time Out), here turns his camera on not just beleaguered French teacher M. Marin (played by Bégaudeau himself), his students and colleagues, but the parents and auxiliary staff that keep any school functioning.
At The Class’s heart though, lies the push-and-pull between teacher, attempting to impart knowledge, and pupils, trying to challenge Marin’s state-given authority wherever possible, on issues of sexuality, race, and speech. Lengthy, gripping sequences map out those sparky afternoons when everyone’s keen to contribute, and the gloomy mornings where nobody’s done their homework, half the class is asleep, and – this is where Cantet and Bégaudeau excel – only a spell of brilliant, engaged teaching can dispel the clouds.
Credit Cantet with scrupulous balance in showing both how the education system works and where it doesn’t; credit Bégaudeau with incarnating everything we expect a modern teacher to be (referee, social worker, stand-up, alchemist); credit, too, the teenage performers, whose improvisations perfectly lay out youth’s complexities. But, language being so essential here, save equal praise for the subtitlers, negotiating with supreme skill the declensions of irregular verbs and the argot of inner-city Paris.