This movie is loosely Based on the novel “Entre les Murs” by French writer François Bégaudeau and his own experiences working as a teacher in an multi-ethnic inner-city school in Paris's socially-deprived 20th arrondissement. The book was a success in France and soon followed interest to adapt this novel into a movie. He worked together with screenwriter Robin Campillo and director Laurent Cantet to do this. Cantet wanted to make this film as realistic as possible and avoid any of the standard cliches and show a realistic and gritty portrait of a real inner-city school and the struggles of the teachers there. You can clearly see in this movie how big the culture clash in a classroom in the averige multi-ethnic Parisian school is, which makes for an interesting look at how teachers are having to deal with the most difficult circumstances on a day to day basis while teaching in these schools.
François Bégaudeau plays himself and manages surprisingly well as François Marin. Of course this might be because of the fact that this is an semi-autobiographical movie about his own life. So he has been the actual teacher in front of the unruly classroom. He faces many struggles with his unruly class in the movie and the most difficult students there, Esmeralda, Khoumba and the ever present but illusive Souleymane are all giving him major headaches. For me, It is actually very hard to like any of the characters in this movie. But I guess that was not the point of it, as its made to offer a view on a specific social problem. It depicts very well both the internal struggle between teachers and the system they have to work in and the relationship between teachers and the students in the school. You can really feel the passion and conflict and director Laurent Cantet put in here, as if he felt like he has something really important to say with this movie.
This movie was filmed as a fictional drama, but you do not get that feel as the cinematography reflects that of the typical “fly on the wall” documentary, giving the movie a lot of its grit and realism, as it seems to been taken straight out of a real life school year. A large part of the charm in my opinion, stems from this and also the fact that they used a mix a mix of real French students from a school in Paris's 20th arrondissement. These students where amateur actors at the time and were told to improvise while on set as the movie had a heavily improvised script. A clear cut winner for me and a great social commentary about the daily struggle that teachers face in their class.