Between the walls, Palme d’or 2008: “This film has become obvious” for Sean Penn

Laurent Cantet’s film returns to Culturebox after the opening ceremony of the 75th Cannes Film Festival.

This year, it is no longer Canal +, but France Télévisions which has joined forces with the Cannes film festival. And the public service has pulled out all the stops to cover this prestigious film event. Among the many works rebroadcast on the occasion of the 75th edition, which will start this evening and will continue until May 28, Culturebox will offer at 9:05 p.m. Between the walls. For 128 minutes, the spectator is locked up in a college. Fiction or documentary? We quickly stop asking the question to see only one thing: the reality of a college on a daily basis. A great lesson in cinema.

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It’s a seamless film. Everything is magic: interpretation, writing, provocations, generosity… Entre les murs has become obvious“, declared Sean Penn, president of the jury of the 61st Cannes Film Festival, after presenting the Palme d’or to Laurent Cantet, in 2008. Without headliners or professional actors, this “small” French film with a tiny budget (3 million euros), selected in extremis at Cannes, won the supreme award in the face of the favorites, the first Palme d’or obtained by France for twenty-two years and Under Satan’s Sun from Pialat!

Adapted from the best-selling book by François Bégaudeau, ex-French teacher, Between the walls talks about the work of a young teacher in a fourth class in a difficult Parisian college. The writer plays his own role. In front of him, twenty-five impulsive boys and girls aged 14-15. Hectic classes, tough breaks, class or disciplinary councils… The director Laurent Cantet opens the doors to an unknown universe, which acts as a sounding board for the outside world and its political and social issues.

Between the walls is a full, dense film, which questions the world [critique]

Professional amateurs
Just as he had recruited from the ANPE the workers of Human ressourcesLaurent Cantet picked up his students from the Collège Françoise Dolto in the 20th arrondissement of Paris, an establishment which, according to him, provided a “diversity of geographical origins“, enough to support his project to show “the complexity of a class like that, but also its richness“.

All the teenagers in the film are students at Dolto, all the teachers teach there, the parents are those of the students. If Cantet likes to feed on the experience of real people, he also asks non-professionals to do real acting work. Shortly after the start of the school year, François Bégaudeau and him open theater workshops on Wednesday afternoons. It is a question of identifying the salient personalities, the potential actors, of finding avenues for dialogue… About fifty fourth-grade pupils and ten teachers embark on the adventure. Teacher and novice actor, François, provocative and a bit sarcastic, as in his novel, stirs up the verbal battle, pushes the students to their limits. The casting was done by itself, the teenagers were chosen, the most assiduous are in the film. Over the course of funny and chaotic sessions, the class took shape, the teenagers composed their characters, the film was written, on the spot. The teenagers have never had knowledge of a screenplay.

Filmed like a tennis match
In July 2007, filming begins. For five weeks, the twenty-five students find themselves within the walls of a real classroom. The space is confined, the spotlights burning. The college students are spied on by three cameras, navigating between the rows, catching reflections, attitudes on the fly. “The idea was to film the lessons like tennis matches, the kids never knew when they were being filmed, so they played hardspecifies Cantet. The way François led each scene from the inside, after we had discussed its ins and outs together, demanded a complicity that is rarely achieved between an actor and a director.“.

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Between the walls, Palme d’or 2008: “This film has become obvious” for Sean Penn