Not many things in life go as they are planned. Life is difficult, the obstacles myriad. We live in a world where effort and intentions can go unnoticed. “The Class,” a film directed by Laurent Cantet, shows the cruel realities of the world where, despite what Hollywood has told you, inspiring teachers can not always make a difference. François Bégaudeau wrote the script based on his life experiences as a teacher and his novel on the same subject.
François Bégaudeau himself plays François Marin, a high school French teacher in a difficult Parisian neighborhood. The students properly represent the multi-cultural aspects of a society as varied as contemporary France. François repeatedly attempts to reach out, inspire and teach children that may or may not want to change or improve at all. François is human. He makes mistakes; he despairs and gets exasperated. Some of the students in the class are some of the prototypes that audiences expect to overcome their problems just like in films with similar subjects such as “Freedom Writers” or “Stand and Deliver.” In “The Class,” however, characters get expelled; they give up, get heartbroken or simply don’t understand their situation.
“The Class” is a reflection of a real human struggle. Accordingly, the style of the film feels almost documentary, going into a real classroom and experiencing the children’s and teacher’s life personally. The use of close-ups and hand-held camera work are predominant in the film, immersing the viewer in the classroom. This up-close approach makes the harshness and reality of and failure feel that much more personal. Even though “The Class” portrays a deeply prejudiced society with enough cultural baggage to refuse change, there is a dim light at the end of the school year. Despite the difficulties of his profession, François and the teachers around him return year after year, exhibiting their faith in education and the children’s progress. “The Class” is real, raw and does not fear to show the world as it is, with all its despair, uncertainty and ultimate hope that difference and progress can be achieved.