Laurent Cantet, director of The Class
A tough look at life in a modern day Parisian school, The Class has been winning plaudits around the globe for its documentary-style and improvised script delivered by a cast of real pupils and new actors.
I spoke to The Class’s director and co-writer Laurent Cantet about the film’s cast, the chance of sequels and a US remake just a few days before the film was narrowly beaten at the 2009 Oscars in the Best Foreign Language Film category.
Firstly, congratulations on your Oscar nomination for The Class. Can you tell me what the last year been like for you and the cast following your win at Cannes?
I’ve spent a lot of time on planes and with journalists, travelling to around 23 countries. I haven’t seen my children much or any films in the last year and I haven’t had time to think about my next project. At the same time it has been interesting to hear people’s reaction from all over the world and realising that the questions the film is asking are relevant wherever you are.
Going back a little, how did you first get involved with the film? What was it that appealed to you about the script?
I’d started to write a script about a school, the idea being to stay within the walls of the school. Two years later I read François Bégaudeau’s book and when I met him on a radio talk show I realised he could give me a lot of documentary material that would help with my film.
I was also very interested in the character in the main character in the book, I liked the way he talked to the children, always provoking them. I also liked the way he was always considering his work in the classroom.
As I already had my own story, I proposed that rather than just adapting his book we use elements of it with some children to see how they might react to the situations it covered.
Was that a new way of working for you?
Usually I rehearse a lot with actors, but this time I took the risk to improvise during the shooting, so I did had to find a new way of filming that allowed that. We used three cameras, and would make the first shot very improvised, just to see how the children could bring their own experience to the scene.
I then worked with them between the first and second take, doing it again and again and again until we finally get the scene we liked.