Have you ever doubted that school is a battleground? This film should set you straight.
Laurent Cantet’s Palme d’Or winner The Class muddies reality-fiction divisions further but cuts closer still to the school-desk grain.
The setting is a Paris state school and the pupils aged 14 to 15. François Bégaudeau, a teacher, plays a version of himself; real pupils play versions of themselves.
The film is no fly-on-the-blackboard documentary but Cantet, who directed Time Out, plays it like one. Classroom tussles chime with truth and complexity. François is a good, idealistic teacher wrestling with rebellious kids, but this is no Dead Poets Society: his class needle him and his liberalism is speared on grounds of race and gender.
When he loses his cool and calls two girls “skanks”, the fallout creates a situation in which he learns a lesson or two. We do, too, but the bustling life of the film enlightens without hectoring.
These kids might be alright in the long haul but their states of turmoil engender respect for their struggles, uncertainties and anxieties.
It’s testament to this movie that it leaves you wanting to gatecrash a class reunion 10 years down the line.
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