Bad Education

in 24th Cottbus Festival of the East European Cinema

by Janka Barkoczi

Correction Class (Klass korrektsii) is undoubtedly the most confusing film adaptation and the most impressive debut of a young director in 2014. The movie, based on the novel by the Russian child psychologist-writer Ekaterina Murashova, grabs its audience and doesn’t let them go until the drama ends. The whirlwind dynamics and hypnotic lyricism of the scenes finds a way to frame an important social issue with a suggestive story and to follow the tradition of youth-themed cinema in a respectful manner.

Lena is a charming teenage girl who returns to school after several years of studying at home. She is cheerful, smart and confined to a wheelchair. In light of her situation, the headmaster assigns her to join a so-called ‘correction class’ where disabled children are educated under special circumstances. Though the aim of the class is to help the pupils to re-integrate into the community of normal people, the worn-out, narrow-minded teachers and the hopeless milieu of the prison-like classroom can’t give them any chance for this. Behind the rusty bars of a closed corridor, far from the spacious alleys teeming with ordinary girls and boys, the members of the small adolescent group are thrown back on each other’s helpfulness and understanding. They are left alone not only with their various physical and mental illnesses, but with their dreams, fears and instincts as well. Lena, initially, finds friends and adventures, maybe also love, among her new companions, but the soul-stirring story of a new start soon turns into a nightmare. Out of the control of wise adults and with the feeling of prejudice inherited from some of the less wise ones, jealousy raises its head, and the classmates start their own corrections on their own lives outside of the law. When Lena finally gets in front of the school commission predestinated to decide about her future at the year’s end, she is not the same anymore.

Since the problem presented here is alive in the educational system, Tverdovsky’s first plan was to shoot a documentary with students of real special classes focusing on their desperate state, and although he changed his mind later, the style of the movie remained harsh and realistic. The natural method of the actors from Kirill Serebrennikov’s theatre academy fits the topic very well, in parallel with the grey, truthful images of the cinematographer, Fedor Struchev. The grown-ups are as schematic and almost cartoon-like as the teenage characters are well-constructed and complex. Their simple role is to provide contrast to the students’ world and to make relative the distinction between normal and abnormal. In spite of the basically serious atmosphere, the dialogues don’t lack some critical irony, just to show us some undeniably absurd moments and consequences of any kind of segregation. In the end, Correction Class is a lively message from a young crew to everyone who cares about future generations: there are still places in Eastern Europe where the kids aren’t all right.

Edited by Carmen Gray