The Class

 

Confining itself to the classrooms, playgrounds and staff rooms of a suburban Parisian high school, The Class is a focussed study of the turbulent encounter of individuals with institutions. 

Laurent Cantet’s film depicts the volatile relationship between an aspirational young teacher and his unruly students.

Avoiding all the hoary clichés, Cantet weaves a complex drama of authority, allegiance and betrayal, centring around the complex social dynamics between teacher and student, adult and not-quite-adult.

Cantet worked with real students (and a real ex-teacher) over the course of a school year, using improvisation to develop the film's remarkable naturalism.

Manohla Dargis praised the results of this method in the New York Times, comparing it to the work of the great institutional documentarian Frederick Wiseman (High School, 1968):

“Just about as tightly focused as a documentary by Frederick Wiseman … Cantet has done that rarest of things in movies about children: He has allowed them to talk.”

 

The Class was awarded the Palme d'Or at Cannes by a unanimous jury including Sean Penn, Marjane Satrapi and Alfonso Cuarón.

The news was received with rapture at Collège Françoise Dolto, the school where the film had been shot, although the young stars’ real life headmaster didn’t break character, announcing he would “ensure they remain students ... they are very, very good in the film, but they are first and foremost great teenagers – and some have exams to pass.”

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