Nous, princesses de Clèves
France, 2009, 69 min
Ah, the high school English class, where works of great literature are foisted upon students as required reading. Those great tomes filled with heady prose and characters from another era are supposed to be vitally important to every young person’s education, but how relevant are they to the realities of daily angst-ridden teenage existence? In a refreshing and inspired look at the lives of contemporary youth, director Régis Sauder attempts to make that elusive connection between classic literature and contemporary teenage life through the authentic voices and emotions of one Marseille high school class studying the 17th century French novel La princesse de Clèves. A tale of love and duty in the 16th century court of King Henri II, this classic text has been taught in French classrooms for decades. But Sauder gives it a new spin, juxtaposing its narrative with the lives of the students themselves, a diverse population of teens from predominantly working-class and immigrant families. As they gradually begin the stressful preparation for their baccalaureate exams, the students recite assorted passages from the book and speak candidly about their hopes and dreams, love and heartbreak, family and friends and their own place in today’s French society.
After he loses a bet, Benoît’s friends dare him to ask the disabled girl in their class to go out with him, sparking a range of teen emotions, insecurities, expectations, hormones and ever-present peer pressure. (Rudi Rosenberg, France 2010, 20 min)
Total running time 89 min. Presented in association with Litquake Literary Festival. North American Premiere.