Apr 152009
Authors: Marjorie Hamburger

Director Laurent Cantet brings to the screen an adapted autobiographical account of one man’s struggle to teach a diverse high school class in Paris. Based on Fran/ois Bégaudeau’s book entitled “Entre les murs,” “The Class” realistically exposes the struggles between teacher/student relations.

Bégaudeau stars himself as Fran/ois Marin, the school’s French teacher. In a lowerclass, multiethnic high school run by French Anglos, the disparities between the students and the staff are copious.

Like such inspirational films as “Freedom Writers” and “Goodbye Mr. Chips,” Marin begins the school year acting as the heroic teacher that will help motivate and shape students for success. His blunt personality sets Marin apart from other teachers, adding a unique mood to his classroom.

But unlike these aforementioned films, “The Class” proves that doing the right thing isn’t always a concrete idea. Although Marin’s intentions are admirable, his approach to teaching is often dubious and misunderstood. Parallel to the 1950 classic “Blackboard Jungle,” this film places assorted characters into a confined classroom and allows the situations to play out on their own.

Although the students come from mixed backgrounds, they are taught in a predominately French manner. The pupils often challenge the way in which they are taught, debating whether or not the issues are valid to their everyday lives.

Marin is torn between the concrete structure of the school system and the subjective, diverse viewpoints of his students. Can he be lenient and still maintain control of the class? Should he be the students’ friend or their leader? Can he be both? These questions lead to a struggle for balance and harmony within a classroom that has neither.

This is no staged performance intended for a moral conclusion. No character is always in the right, nor are they necessarily in the wrong. The students who outwardly appear disrespectful or apathetic are later seen as complex, thoughtful individuals. A teacher determined to change his students for the better accidentally destroys his image by one foul slip of the tongue.

The complex scenarios within the classroom are depicted more sincerely than most documentaries. Cameras linger in the classroom, the library, the courtyard and the teachers’ lounge. This fly on the wall approach, in addition to a magnificent cast, makes viewing “The Class” an intimate experience.

Though Marin is the teacher, he has much to learn from the students. “The Class” brings to the forefront issues of diversity, acceptance and understanding with utmost integrity.

Staff writer Marjorie Hamburger can be reached at verve@collegian.com.

Editor’s note: Marjorie Hamburger’s review ‘”The Class” portrays teacher/student conflicts’ was intended to run Thursday, April 9. Her review will resume next Thursday and will run every other Thursday thereafter.

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