Entre Les Murs aka The Class by Francois Begaudeau and others, directed by Laurent Cantet
A different version of this note and thoughts on other books are available at:
- https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLEVa4_CsRStSBBDo4uJWT8BSWtTTn0N1E and http://realini.blogspot.ro/
This is a winner of The Palme D’Or, in my view the most important, prestigious and relevant of all cinema awards.
And it is a worthwhile, thought provoking work of art.
The themes are:
- Education, religion, race relations, life in the banlieue, poor neighborhoods, values and role models, among others
The film is based on the real experience of Francois Begaudeau, who has contributed to the scenario and used to be a teacher.
Otherwise, the dialogue is spontaneous and it seems that the production was based on improvisation even if there is structure to the narrative.
I was thinking that in some ways, this film resembles another masterpiece –To Sir With Love, with Sydney Poitier in the lead role.
Notwithstanding the fact that the teenagers are impressive and especially given their inexperience, I thought the teacher is the most important protagonist.
He is a role model, even if or because he breaks down and has moments when he comes close to losing control.
To be faced with such a huge challenge looks to me like heroism in the fiercest battle, confronting enemies that you cannot injure….
- Well, there are always reprimands, lousy grades and more, but in these cases they do not seem to care
- Indeed, some just take their lousy performance and evaluations as a badge of honor and pride
So the professor has to demonstrate incredible resilience, grit, bravery, calm, sense of justice, compassion.
Psychology has demonstrated the importance of the Pygmalion Effect and the excellent results that can be obtained:
- If a teacher believes in his students, much like the sculptor of Ancient Greece loved his statue of Galatea, the pupils will perform stupendously
- Alas, the reverse is also true
And here I am unhappy to mention my own frictions with the French educational system, in which I have enrolled my daughter.
The local Lycee Francais has some advantages, but it is plagued with some teachers who are not just modest in performance, but they apply the reverse Pygmalion effect and the leader of this school is impervious to some rather critical aspects:
I told her for instance that the parking lot has hundreds of cars with engines running while the drivers sit and wait, just because they want 21 degrees in the car and although the temperature is often exactly that, they want to show off and impress that they have the money for the diesel, on top of the amount needed for luxury cars.
The leadership was oblivious to this and a number of other aspects that make me worry and upset that they are so limited.
Their attitude and lack of perspective, in an area which they should have seen and reacted, because after all, intelligent people are aware of the Climate Change- they even signed protocols in Paris recently- and know better than to just send carbon dioxide into the atmosphere for…really no reason other than vanity, ignorance, stupidity and criminal negligence…
- And if they do not see, react, do something about that, what do they know and teach there then??!
- If they do not have fundamentals right, what do they know about values, virtues, strengths, skills??
- At times it looks like little or nothing
To end with an anecdote that I remembered seeing this film, a chef d’oeuvre:
“You’ve heard that thing about Faulkner and Clark Gable haven’t you? Howard Hawks was taking Faulkner out on a quail shoot and came by to pick him up a little before dawn to get to where they were going by first light. Clark Gable was in the car and Faulkner in the backseat. As they rode along, Gable and Hawks got to talking. Gable said, ‘You know, you’re a well-read man, Howard. I’ve always been meaning to do some reading. I never have really done it. What do you think I ought to read?’ And Hawks said, ‘Why don’t you ask Bill back there. He’s a writer, and he’ll be able to tell you.’ Gable said, ‘Do you write, Mr. Faulkner?’ Faulkner said, ‘Yes, Mr. Gable. What do you do?’ ‘’