Tag Archives: Education

Dans La Maison

dans la maison

Director: François Ozon

Drawing us into a world full of danger through spying on our neighbours, Dans La Maison offers us the turbulent lives of the Artole family on a plate, learning a few lessons himself and also teaching others as well.

Given the task of writing about his weekend for his French Literature class, the insanely talented Claude Garcia (played by Ernst Umhauer) describes the home life of a fellow student: Rapha Junior (Bastien Ughetto) who he singles out during maths when he finds that Rapha is failing. Using his mathematics ability to tutor Rapha and pushed by his literature teacher Germain (Fabrice Luchini), Claude delves further into the Artole’s life. Befriending the father, Rapha Senior (played by Denis Ménochet) and seducing his wife, Esther (Emmanuelle Seigner) are parts of his infiltration into the Artole household which he documents weekly and hands into his teachers.

Claude finds his way into the Artole's life

Claude finds his way into the Artole’s life

Although encouraging him to improve his writing ability, we see Germain become increasingly obsessed with the Artole household, pushing the boundaries further and further. He is controlled by his desire to read Claude’s writing, which is fueled by frequent visits. He subtly threatens Germain that he’ll stop writing if he can’t access the Artole household anymore. This means that he needs to access maths papers, in order to prove his ability as a maths tutor to Rapha’s parents.

Although initially it starts off as a childish obsession with Claude, wanting to know how the Artole’s live, what makes them tick, what living in a normal family is like Dans La Maison takes a sinister turn when Germain humiliates Rapha in front of the class. Suddenly, things become a little bit more real for Germain, he realises that it’s not just a faraway story, but real people with real lives that he’s pushing Claude to toy with. Frequently, he appears as an external being in the Artole household, suggesting how Claude could twist the writing, twist the plot.

Reading the essays to his wife Joanne who works at the local gallery (played by Kristin Scott Thomas), Germain and Joanne discuss the lives of the Artole family as if they were discussing a soap opera. Joanne has a more weary attitude claiming that Claude may indeed be teaching Germain a lesson.

Dans La Maison switches between the Artole household and the Germain household, drawing parallels between both worlds. We realise that we know so much about the Artole’s, a fair bit about the Germain’s but hardly anything about Claude’s own family. We are introduced to Claude as this shy individual with an ‘absent mother’, whereas Rapha is introduced to us as a family unit. The Germain’s and the Artole’s become worryingly close when invited to a gallery showing by Joanne, striking fear in Germain’s heart.

Spotting the Artole family at the gallery

Spotting the Artole family at the gallery

Still, getting darker, we see Claude invade the personal lives of older women – Esther and Germain’s wife Joanne (Kristin Scott Thomas) for example. What makes this film so clever is how Claude plays on the interest of other characters. Both women want more than just what they’ve got and so Claude eases his way into their lives, Germain is addicted to new information and gossip and so Claude traps him in a game in which he repeats A suivre…” and Rapha longs for something a little bit ‘different’ to his classmates.

I can’t talk to much without giving it away, but it is definitely worth a watch and you’ll enjoy it completely!

8/10

A suivre – to be continued

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Polisse

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Director: Maïwenn

Polisse, (the name being a childish version of the word ‘Police’)  is not for the faint-hearted. Documentary-style Polisse tugs at the heartstrings and slaps us in the face with the harsh reality of life in the Juvenile Protection Unit of the Police Department in Paris.

Melissa (Maïwenn herself), a journalist who arrives to investigate the Juvenile Protection Unit falls for Fred (played by Joey Starr) – a sensitive yet quick-to-temper character, who already has a wife and daughter. Although this may seem like one of the simplest ‘forbidden’ love stories of all time, it is complicated by the interweaving relationships between the various members of staff. The stresses of their jobs affecting their relationships with both friends and partners.

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Talking to children about the abuse they’ve suffered is not an easy job, as the film covers.

The great thing about this film is that it’s jam-packed with emotion – believable emotion towards child-abuse. This, teamed with documentary-style footage, keeps a ‘realistic’ element to the whole film. For me, documentary is a very effective way of conveying drama in a workplace. For example, look at Entre les Murs (otherwise known as The Class); the documentary style keeps it from looking too clean and too perfect, it enables us to connect with the cast and understand the situations that they find themselves in. 

Although I can highly commend this film for not holding back on the details, I would not recommend it to everyone. For those of you who find scenes of child abuse or scenes of talking about child abuse disturbing, this film is not for you. Similarly, those who can’t deal the idea of abortion, you might want to skip one of the scenes. It has to be said, that this scene definitely made me shed a tear. It manages to be halfway between tender and clinical. The young girl who whispers “sorry” to her child, reflects on the sad necessity of abortion that is so debated today. The fact that the baby can be used as evidence against the young girl’s rapist is also a point worth making: it doesn’t ‘protect’ the audience, the way a more ‘classic’ film might do and it shocks you. You are seeing what the characters see everyday.

Not only is there a vast array of characters in the Juvenile Protection Unit, but there is also an array of characters among the victims and abusers alike. We see those who are greasy slimeballs, to those who don’t understand what has happened, to those who ‘just can’t help themselves’. You do not warm to all the police force – in fact you may find yourself siding with Iris (Marina Foïs) or Nadine (Karin Viard). 

Polisse is definitely worth a watch: it tackles modern issue which are much in debate today. For example, we witness Nora (played by Naidra Ayadi) tackling sexism in Islam and Fred undergoing the procedure of bathing his daughter, telling her that ‘daddies don’t go in the bath with daughters’. Polisse doesn’t just deal with the drama in the victim’s world as well, it’s necessary to understand that it deals with the victims in the police force – those who cannot deal with stress, those who lose the case for being too emotionally involved.

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“Where does it say [in the Qur’an] that women cannot work?”

Overall, Polisse is a little long and has a slightly bizarre ending but is well-constructed and elegantly done in terms of handling such delicate situations: it does not bombard you with sick images, nor does it drown you in morals. It hands situations to the audience and they can decide how they feel about them. Some may complain that it can come across boring or confusing in parts, which I would agree with. The ending left me racking my brains for what could have led to that outcome. For me, it almost felt as if the writers needed a definite ending and this was the way to go.

7/10

Vocabulary:

frotter – to rub 

tromper qqn – to cheat on somebody

 un fugueur, une fugueuse – a runaway (from home)

les vergetures – stretchmarks

un foyer – a home

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17 Filles

17 Filles

17 Filles

Directed by Delphine and Muriel Coulin

Inspired by true life events which took place in Gloucester, USA in 2008, 17 Filles is the modern story of female solidarity, dreams and growing up, which entices us with its down-to-earth approach and amiable characters.

Lorient, France. 16 year old Camille finds out that she’s pregnant during a routine health check at school. Deciding to keep the baby, she receives more than enough support from her friends who form a pact – they will all get pregnant in order to stay together. The pact holds the girls together like glue. Although originally only 4 girls from the ‘inner circle’ decide to join Camille in her pregnancy, more and more girls join, forming friendships.

17 Filles depicts the idealistic values of the 17 girls – wanting to bring their children up together whilst staying in school. Camille tells her friends that she’ll have “two lives: one at school and one with the baby”, whilst the others nod in agreement. They also claim that the 16 year age gap is brilliant – they can connect with their children, much more than their own parents can connect with them. How hard could it be?

Standing in solidarity at the pharmacy

Standing in solidarity at the pharmacy

However, several dark undertones bring us down to earth at regular intervals. For example, one of the ‘younger’ characters, Clémentine (played effortlessly by Yara Pilartz) struggles with being the ‘baby’ of the group and longs to rid herself of her virginity, eventually offering to pay the father of her baby for sex. We also experience the wrath of Clémentine’s parents, who claim that she’s too young and that it’s dangerous for her to give birth. Whereas her mother weeps with despair, her father is angry.

As well as the hurdles which the main characters face, we’re also brought down to the harsh reality with the shots of minor characters sitting in their room, alone and worrisome. Here, we can only guess the thoughts which run through their minds: The severity of the situation or how they will tell their parents.

The characters of the 17 are instantly recognisable from our own school days. From the natural leader, the headstrong Camille, to the wannabe Florence who’ll do anything to be involved in the ‘cool’ group, we recognise our own friends and ourselves from the 17. We become attached to them, we understand their motives- whether it be out of loyalty or just to be part of something that’s going on.

Florence asks Camille for advice

Florence asks Camille for advice

The film, for me, is not about rebellion. Instead, 17 Filles depicts the lengths that girls will go to in order to help their friends, with severe consequences. The desire to prove themselves to others, to grow up quickly, to show how mature they are. For example, they pore over a book about pregnancy, whilst each of the inner circle offer something that they know already about pregnancy.

We watch as outsiders, swept up in their dreams of happy lives together, bringing up the children but shaking our heads in disbelief at the blasé attitude they adopt towards motherhood.

It could be argued that 17 Filles loses some of its realism due to the fact that the girls party a lot, drink and continue to smoke. However, it could also be argued that this adds to the realistic situation: the 17 either don’t understand the severity of looming motherhood or refuse to acknowledge it.

The film, however, lacks in certain areas. Although there are 3, possibly 4 strong main characters, I’d have preferred to see more of the other girls. I’d have liked for some other girls to have speaking parts, instead of staying silent and I’d also like to know how Clémentine’s relationship with her family works out.

Although 17 Filles is often compared to both Juno and Knocked Up, it’s necessary to remember that both Juno and Knocked Up are unplanned pregnancies. The 17 (apart from perhaps Camille – but we’ll never know for sure) decide to get pregnant. Because of this, it could be argued that 17 Filles is refreshing and oddly more realistic than both Juno and Knocked Up.

7/10

Vocabulary: 

Dingue – Crazy, wild

J’en ai marre de – I am sick of

L’écographie (f) – the ultrasound

La couette – quilt, duvet

C’est le dernier de tes soucis – that’s the least of your worries

 

 

 

 

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