DVD of the Week – The Class (2008)

by HELEN GEIB

the_class

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

5 responses to “DVD of the Week – The Class (2008)

  1. What was your take on this film, Helen?

  2. Ah, you got me. I haven’t seen it yet. It was the most interesting movie released this week, and I figured the critical plaudits made it a safe recommendation.

  3. I saw this film last week, as it is now on DVD in North America, and was surprised to find myself angry the entire time. It showcases the delinquent youths of Europe, how half of them are Muslim and how annyoing they can be, and the lack of respect to authority; and it never really becomes a happy film. Which is a good thing. It is constant in its downward spiral and never treads on high school movie cliches.
    I highly recommend it.

  4. I saw this in the theaters. I hated it. It is interminable. The funny thing is that the film a realistic portrayal of the classroom experience except for the central conflict of the film, which feels completely contrived. Watching this film, for the most part, feels like sitting in class, with a jackass teacher, for two hours.

    The trailer for this film does a decent job, though. If you catch the trailer and think the film looks as boring as watching paint dry, then by no means should you watch the film (I thought it looked awful from the trailers – but still saw it since I know trailers are often deceiving, and because of the critical acclaim).

  5. I wasn’t bored at all. I really admire the fact that 95% of the film takes place entirely within the classroom and I did not find the teacher to be a jackass outside of the proper context. He had all the reasons to talk back because that’s what every student did to him all the time.
    I was wondering how much worse the kids could get and was hoping, deep down inside, for the teacher to get physical. But alas, that would be wrong.

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