One of the most notable aspects of Entre les Murs (Between the Walls, or, as it was titled for its American release, The Class) is the fact that there is no plot. There is no anticipation, climax, or even a real conclusion, just the start of the summer vacation. The Class, which won the Palme d’Or at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, is merely a look at the diverse inhabitants of a Parisian classroom over the course of one school year in which one teacher is nearly driven to insanity.
The films sees its subjects – all of whom are real Parisians portraying slightly fictionalized versions of themselves – through France’s equivalent of the eighth grade. The teacher, Mr. Marin (played by François Bégadeau, who wrote the novel the film was based on), quickly grows exasperated with his students, who represent each of France’s immigrant populations. Mr. Marin argues with his charges, speaks without thinking, and ultimately struggles to survive the year. The kids do not see themselves as French – rather, Moroccan, Caribbean, Malian and so on – and are resentful of the French identity they see as being forced upon them.
The Class may be a bit slow, but it proves that the challenges of adolescence and education are not just relegated to the United States. This film is at its best when it sticks to improvisation, not when it makes vague attempts to adhere to a storyline.