The Class

September 24, 2008 0 By Fans
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Teacher and novelist François Bégaudeau plays a version of himself as he negotiates a year with his racially mixed students from a tough Parisian neighborhood.

Release Year: 2008

Rating: 7.6/10 (14,510 voted)

Critic's Score: 92/100

Laurent Cantet

Stars: François Bégaudeau, Agame Malembo-Emene, Angélica Sancio

Teacher François Marin and his colleagues are preparing for another school year teaching at a racially mixed inner city high school in Paris. The teachers talk to each other about their prospective students, both the good and the bad. The teachers collectively want to inspire their students, but each teacher is an individual who will do things in his or her own way to achieve the results they desire. They also have differing viewpoints on the students themselves, and how best to praise and discipline them. The administration of the school tries to be as fair as possible, which includes having student representatives sit on the student evaluation committee. Marin's class this year of fourteen and fifteen year olds is no different than previous years, although the names and faces have changed. Marin tries to get through to his students, sometimes with success and sometimes resulting in utter failure…

Writers: Laurent Cantet, Robin Campillo


François Bégaudeau

François Marin

Agame Malembo-Emene


Angélica Sancio


Arthur Fogel


Boubacar Toure


Burak Özyilmaz


Carl Nanor


Cherif Bounaïdja Rachedi


Dalla Doucoure


Damien Gomes


Esmeralda Ouertani


Eva Paradiso


Henriette Kasaruhanda


Juliette Demaille


Justine Wu



Official Website:
Haut et Court [France]|
Official site [Canada]|

Release Date: 24 September 2008

Opening Weekend: $3,230,850
(28 October 2008)
(368 Screens)

Gross: $3,766,595
(7 June 2009)

Technical Specs



Did You Know?


France's official submission for the 2008 Best Foreign Language Film Oscar.

User Review

The dynamics of a multi-ethnic Paris middle school class skillfully recreated

Rating: 10/10

Laurent Cantet (Human Resources, Time Out, Heading South) shot multiple
improvised takes of real students and a real teacher using three
cameras to make The Class (Entre les murs), a remarkable new film about
what happens over the course of a year between a single collège (junior
high or middle school) class in the multi-ethnic 20th arrondissment of
Paris and their French teacher. The accomplishment has been recognized:
the film won the Golden Palm at the Cannes Festival this year. It is
the opening night film of the New York Film Festival at Lincoln
Center–its US premiere.

François Bégaudeau, who plays the teacher, François Martin, wrote the
book about his own classroom experiences that Cantet based this film
on, and also collaborated on the script. Bégaudeau/Martin's pedagogic
method is to stand his ground in the frequent verbal battles that
happen in class. He's fast, supple, sometimes ironic. He is not
perfect; his tendency to challenge and engage, while it keeps things
lively, can also lead to confrontation and negativity. At one point he
uses a slanderous word (pétasse, translated in the subtitles as
"skank") for two of the girls who have been unruly as class
representatives at a meeting with teachers, and a confrontation that
follows with the undisciplined Soulaymane (Franck Keita) leads to the
latter's expulsion and embarrassment for Martin when his language
becomes known to his colleagues. On the other hand, despite constant
challenges, dialogue happens, even about such arcane matters as French

The unique value of this film is that much, though not all, of it takes
place directly in the classroom and involves real instruction and
learning. So many films about schools don't have that, and the efforts
to convey believable classroom moments in narrative features, even good
ones, are often feeble. Here there are all kinds of classroom
discussions–about whether the kids want to reveal themselves in
"self-portraits," whether Martin is gay, rival football teams, national
loyalty, The Diary of Anne Frank, even Plato's Republic, which a rude
outspoken girl, Esmeralda (Esmeralda Ouertani), reveals she has read
her sister's school copy of.

In a contemporary French context, one thinks of Abdel Kechiche's (also
prize-winning) Games of Law and Chance (L'Esquive), which has kids from
a similar French banlieu neighborhood: it also focuses on how the
emigrant kids encounter classic French linguistic culture as the school
project is to put on A 18th-century play. In Kechiche's film there is
more variety: we get intimate looks at the home lives of various
characters, their interactions out of class, and the principals' love
conflicts. Cantet focuses only on the class and more briefly on
gatherings with other faculty and in the school yard, never showing the
kids at home or by themselves or indeed ever straying outside the
school. On the other hand, Cantet captures the real classroom dynamic.
Of course, this story is specialized too: it only shows French class,
but the students are also taught by half a dozen other teachers whose
work we do not see. Ultimately this is perhaps more about the teacher
than the students, important though they are.

Interesting contrasts come through the multiple identities represented:
African, Caribbean, Moroccan, Turkish, Chinese–and unspecified whites,
who may be a slight majority among the class' two dozen students, but
aren't often heard from (it's the troublemakers who emerge most
prominently). The Chinese boy, Wei, is the best student, even though he
is deferential about his abilities and shy about his speaking
abilities. There are inklings of the fragility of French residency for
new arrivals. News comes later in the year that government agents have
seized Wei's mother because she was illegally in the country. At a
faculty gathering a woman teacher who's just announced she is pregnant
touchingly proposes a toast and makes two wishes: that Wei will be okay
and that her child will be as smart as he is. Rumor has it that if
Soulaymane (Franck Keita) fails in school his father will send him back
to the "bled," the old country, which is Mali.

The disciplinary actions that lead to Soulayman's expulsion bring bad
vibes to François's classroom. But as the film jumps forward to the end
of the year, good feelings seem to have returned and the teacher gives
out copies to the students of a booklet he's had made of all their
"self-portraits" with photographic illustrations, which is well
received. A shocker comes though when at the very end, after students
have talked about what they've learned in school that year, one girl
comes up to François privately and tells him that in all her classes
she has learned nothing, and understood nothing. François' adeptness
almost fails him when faced with this confession. Needless to say, this
is no feel-good To Sir With Love movie. But what's positive about it is
the vibrancy of the social dynamic and the fact that communication
really does happen, with challenge and response ceaselessly on both
sides. It's fascinating how the kids catch up the teacher and how he
(for the most part) successfully parries their thrusts and perhaps even
convinces them, to some degree, of the value of standard French in a
mulitcultural France.

Cantet has used improvisation with non-actors before, notably in Human
Resources, which shows a factory labor struggle that divides a family.
The notable thing here is how authentic and seamless the classroom
action appears. Students constructed personalities close to but
different from their own. Events are telescoped, as in François
Bégaudeau's book. Up to 7 or 8 takes were used to hone a segment, but
according to Cantet, the young actors got back into the spirit of
things so successfully that they could be intercut seamlessly. The
result is maybe the liveliest and most naturalist reinvention on film
of a contemporary public school classroom, in all its volatility and
variety. And since blends of documentary and narrative often represent
the cutting edge today, Cantet's achievement seems a very up-to-date