(out of 5)
Original title: Entre Les Murs
François Bégaudeau stars as a fictional version of himself in this film adapted from his book, based on his own experiences as a teacher in the French public school system. He teaches a (subtly described) remedial class of sometimes hard-to-manage students who challenge, exasperate, enrage and fully bewilder their educator as he tries to instill in them a basic understanding of grammar and, hopefully, a rudimentary love of learning. To be fair, a reasonable amount of the drama he gets from his students he provokes in the first place, but this isn’t a film about conflict as much as it is about the journey of education for both teacher and student alike. France’s increasing difficulties in dealing with a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural community shows up in this microcosm where there is a lack of understanding, and most certainly a lack of sympathy between people of different backgrounds. Exceptionally detailed direction and performances make this quite the experience; the actors playing the students are all non-professionals who were auditioned for a year of improvisational exercises, and this dedication pays off for a film that feels like a documentary. There is a point, however, when enjoyment isn’t so much the dominant feeling as admiration is, where one is impressed with how well the film is made but is still hoping it will end very, very soon. Still, as clinical studies go this would be an exercise in human observation that would make the likes of George Eliot scream with delight. Winner of the 2008 Palme D’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, it was the first French film in 21 years to take the honour.
Haut et Court, France 2 Cinéma, Canal+, CinéCinéma, France 2, Soficinéma 3, Centre National de la Cinématographie, Agence Nationale pour la Cohésion Sociale et l’Egalité des Chances, Région Ile-de-France, Cofinova 4, Fonds Images de la Diversité, MEDIA Programme of the European Union, Procirep
Directed by Laurent Cantet
Cinematography by Pierre Milon
Production Design by Sabine Barthelemy
Film Editing by Robin Campillo, Stephanie Leger