CUT UP | The Class

The Class vividly returns us to the microcosmic world of school. By Louis Rogers


The Class is a film defined by limits. Its original French title Entre Les Murs (“Between the Walls”) announces that the film will take place solely within the classrooms, playgrounds and staff rooms of a school (specifically, a state high school in the Parisian suburbs). It also suggests how delimitation and delineation will characterise its narrative. Within the confines of Collège Dolto, we witness the lives of teachers and students, as well as those of parents and cleaners, in their interaction – but no further. The home lives of Mr Marin and his students remain as unknown to us as they are to each other. The Class vividly returns you to the microcosmic world of school, perhaps even to an age at which you imagined teachers lived and slept in their classrooms.

This potent use of confines is reflected in the film’s editing. Just as we see an assiduously cropped version of these characters lives, the film cuts in and out of scenes mid-flow, leaving us to conjecture, or simply wonder, what occurred before and beyond them. These cuts are fluid rather than abrupt: the film recounts a whole school year, classes and staff meetings and break times flowing into each other with the passage of time scarcely marked. Passing references to expired months and terms are the only indications of just how much lies beyond the film’s cuts, or its walls. 

Suitably, borders and boundaries are often at stake in the narrative: does Souleyman cross a line when inquiring about Mr Marin’s sexuality? Does Mr Marin when, as part of a self-portrait exercise, he asks his students what makes them feel ashamed? In such a strictly delineated film, these almost spatial transgressions feel instinctively uncomfortable. Then, during the film’s denouement, the question of whether or not to consider circumstances external to school becomes vital to one student’s future. It might be easier if we could cut away one part of life from the other the way you can cut a film, but the reality is that such cuts only point more insistently to that which has been excised. ◉


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