Film Review: Monsieur Lazhar

220px-Monsieur_lazharA film about the collision of two worlds is nothing new. The luxurious first world tiptoeing around the world’s problems, keeping mum in order to appear happy, only for the appearance’s sake, being challenged by the gritty disheveled third world is not entirely a new subject to be broached by a film. What Monsieur Lazhar does is to take the subject matter and treat it in a sublime way, not with the bellicose earth-shattering attitude that these sorts of films try to invoke.

Monsieur Lazhar deals with multiple themes: how the innocence of the children shattered following an unusual suicide of their class teacher committed in her own class-room, how the school tries to deal with the situation by keeping silent about the entire ordeal and putting the children under the care of a psychologist, how the school employs Monsieur Lazhar, the eponymous character as the substitute teacher and how his life is affected through the experience as does that of the students.

A comparison between this film and the Palme d’or winning ‘The Class” would come to mind but Monsieur Lazhar, almost in each frame, reveals a newer set of narratives. This is how Lazhar’s past demons were shown: how he fled Algiers without his unfortunate family that eventually succumbed to a violent political assassination, how he is trying to find his foot in the new land applying and waiting for political refugee status, how his relation with a colleague stymies when his past silently haunts him. All these were shown with a definite ardor yet without any maudlin display of emotion.

Lazhar eventually helps the students by bringing the skeleton out of the closet. While he never spills out his own personal grievings and losses, he aids the students to come in terms with the situation: putting everything as they are, ridding them out of the unwarranted guilt that haunted them. In a way, the story becomes allusion of the first world’s way to deal with the worldly problems and how the meaningless the entire charade is from the standpoint of one who stood at the firing line.

The excellent editing kept the spruce drama hinting various themes almost at the level of perfection, not overdoing any of it. The way Lazhar’s colleague see him as the representative of an unfortunate nation, the way she shows off her travelling, knowledge and interest in Africa, almost garishly yet intending to be polite was breathtaking; as is breathtaking the finishing. The mixed feelings that the viewers are left with, about the protagonist and his final station in life, is not only novel but phantasmagoric. And perhaps that’s how I’ll remember the film: a phantasmagoric journey through the intricacies of human conscience depicted with subtleties and nuances of a perfect art form.


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