by HELEN GEIB
The original French title of The Class is Entre les murs, which translates literally as “between the walls.” The film is based on a 2006 novel of the same name by Francois Begaudeau that is a semi-autobiographical account of the author’s experiences teaching young teens in a Paris inner-city public school. The English title is usefully descriptive, but the literal rendering is more evocative of the film’s mission to examine contemporary French multi-cultural society through the prism of the classroom.
The screenplay is by Begaudeau and director Laurent Cantet. Begaudeau plays the teacher he based on himself and the students are played by non-professional actors. The film was shot on HD and the documentary quality is further heightened by improvisation in the classroom-set scenes that are the film’s focus.
The Class won the Palme d’Or at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival and was France’s submission for best foreign-language film in this year’s Academy Awards. It was ecstatically received by American critics, appearing on the best of the year lists of a number of well-respected reviewers.
The DVD is light on special features, but does include a commentary track for selected scenes and a “making-of.”
Other new releases this week: 17 Again, I Love You, Man, Katyn, Paris 36