Entre les murs-Laurent Cantet
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We are used to vicariously viewing school life in "fly on the wall" educational documentaries such as Educating Essex and Yorkshire. Cameras are set up to capture scenes which are then edited together to hype a range of dramas which interest the director. Films embracing classroom scenes from Vigo's Zéro de Conduite and Truffaut's Les 400 coups have marked the history of French cinema; school days seem to be an endless source of fascination for French audiences. In the charming Etre and avoir Nicolas Philibert captured a soon-to-retire teacher's last year in a tiny one class primary school with Etre et avoir. The global hit Les Choristes by Barratier was a feel-good hit which again proved that seeing children make good against the odds is a powerful force.
The genesis of Entre les Murs was unusual. François Bégadeau wrote an autobiographical novel of a year teaching French language and literature in a suburban school and the director, Cantet, uses the author to perform as himself in the film using amateur actors to play the students he taught. The film traces, in parallel, the lives of the teachers and the pupils, cutting mainly between staffroom and Marin's (Bégedeau's) classroom. First and foremost it is the diverse characters of the students which is of interest as they begin to assert themselves in mid adolescence; one can feel the attempt to impart French language and culture cracking at the seams as the teacher endeavours to use out-dated didactic techniques to get his message across, albeit with lashings of humanity.
With students coming from all over the world, this classroom, illustrates well France's ethnic diversity and issues around identities, loyalties and fears of expulsion are integrated well into the texture of the film. Challenging from beginning to end the film eschews any sentimentality, is very matter of fact yet strangely endearing.
This blend of documentary style with rehearsed acting is interesting filmically as it harks back to the 1920's and Nanouk of the North the first full-length documentary about the lives of Eskimos. Much of the action, despite appearing authentic, was staged for effect; unlike Nanouk, however although Entre les murs is staged, one really does get the feeling that Cantet really captures the essence of current everyday life in the classroom.
Contents of the unit
What's in the unit?
Detailed gapped summary of the film
Character profile guide (translation to and from French
Direct/Indirect speech activity
A factor-present participle, passive, subjunctive
Multiple tense guide (Tensinator)
Essay planning tool with sample essay (coming soon)
Sample essay based on plan (coming soon)
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To purchase by paypal/card please follow this link to my new DOLANGUAGES site which combines French, German and Spanish resources in one place. Go to the page for this title now.