Laurent Cantet, Director of Oscar-Nominated Film The Class, on French Teens and Culture Clash
1/29/09 at 1:00 PM
Photo: Getty Images
French director Laurent Cantet’s The Class — which won the Palme d'Or at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival and has since been nominated for a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar — is a quietly observed drama about one year at a high school beset by clashing cultures. Cantet’s collaborator, novelist and teacher François Bégaudeau, plays the instructor; teenage non-actors play the students. Prior to its release, Cantet spoke with us about the film's evocation of multiple social divides, and how the French trust their teenagers more than Americans trust theirs.
You employed a lot of workshopping for this movie.All school year, every Wednesday afternoon, we would meet outside of the regular school time. What we were doing these afternoons was working to improvise situations that could be similar to the ones that I was planning to film — trying to avoid rehearsing the real scenes so that they wouldn't get bored with it when we filmed, but still captur[ing] some elements of the proposed film. That helped me write it.