First Hit: I walked away with mixed feelings and emotions about the teaching techniques in French schools but I found the acting to be top notch.
At the beginning I was immediately drawn into slice of life view that French films use to set the tone of the film.
The initial scenes were of the teachers gathered in their teachers lounge with each of them introducing themselves to the other teachers stating their name, the subject they teach and how long they’ve been teaching at this school. The location of the school gave the impression that these were tough kids from a lower socioeconomic part of French society which gave grit to the teacher student interaction.
The film follows a single teacher through his days with the students in one of his classes. The one scene which affected me most was when one of the teachers bursts into the teacher lounge and is so upset about the teaching situation and the students that he goes into a tirade about why it’s useless to teach at this school with these students.
I thought the acting was very good in all cases. I think Director Laurent Cantet did an excellent job of eliciting life like performances from all the actors. They could have been their role in real life. I was especially taken by the students who were all amateurs and, from what I read, weren’t given lines per-se but roles to play with the ability to ad lib their scenes. It worked and they were excellent representing a wide range of attitudes. What was troubling about the film wasn’t about the acting but how French schools work. In one scene, the one that shifts the whole energy of the film, student monitors attend a student evaluation conference where student's grades and performances are discussed between the teachers. The student monitors took notes and then shared the negative teacher comments back to those specific students. I don’t know if French schools do this or not, but if they do it seemed to be a lightning rod for trouble because it set up a forum for retaliation and a negative tone.
Overall: I may not have agreed with the way this teacher interacted with the students, like saying two girls were “acting like skanks”, but the quality of the roles and how they stayed within their roles was very well done.