Editor's note: "Through a Screen Darkly," a monthly commentary by CT Movies critic Jeffrey Overstreet,explores films old and new, as well as relevant themes and trends in cinema. The column continues the journey begun in Overstreet's book of the same name.

"Carpe Diem."

Remember that? That's what Professor Keating (Robin Williams) told his class of troubled youngsters in Dead Poets Society.

"Seize the days, boys. Make your lives extraordinary."

In The Class, "Seize the day" might be the worst thing the teacher could say to his students. This multi-ethnic group of troublemakers, cynics, and egoists have already seized the classroom, and if he's not careful they will seize his career and throw it out the window.

The Class, an extraordinarily gripping feature by the great French director Laurent Cantet, is a must-see for college students and teachers alike, and absolutely essential viewing for anyone who feels the urge to make a career in education.

It is, for me, a fascinating film, as my parents, my aunt and uncle, and my grandmother were all teachers, so I've grown up in and around classrooms, teachers' lounges, and parent-teacher conferences. The Class feels more authentic, thoughtful, and inspiring than any other school-related film I've seen, including To Sir With Love, Mr. Holland's Opus, Dangerous Minds, and the aforementioned Dead Poets Society. The jury at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival gave the movie their highest award—the Palme d'Or.

But don't be scared off by the fact that it's subtitled, or that it's bound to one classroom for most of its running time. The Class is as intense as The Bourne Ultimatum, offers more fodder for discussion about modern multi-ethnic societies than Crash, and is enlivened by performances ...

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