The Centipede

Learning the Culture of France Through Movies

Alex Tesson '19

It is difficult to fully define a culture and its language through one medium; its literature provides only an academic standpoint on a culture, while its music usually doesn’t touch on every aspect of it. Film, however, is an excellent medium that provides both an entertaining viewpoint into the lives of the people it depicts, and a constant stream of native speakers having conversations. French films are one example of how we can learn about French culture while improving one’s French skills, a tool, which Concord Academy’s French program makes use of in class.

An example of a film that portrays the French culture is Au Revoir les Enfants, a touching movie about French students at a boarding school in German-occupied France during the Second World War. By watching an accurate portrayal of students in France, last year’s French 3 class got a glimpse of what growing up in France is like as well as learning about an important time period in modern French history. The speaking in this movie is rapid, complex, and filled with advanced vocabulary, pushing non-French speakers to listen closely and adapt quickly to the pace of its dialogue. This movie is an emotional example of how helpful French cinema can be for those seeking to expand their knowledge on the culture and language of France.

On the more lighthearted side of French movies comes Le Dîner de Cons, a comedy film that follows the story of one man finding a highly unintelligent man and inviting him over for dinner, with the secret intent of showing off his stupidity to his friends. Also shown to French 3 students last year, Le Dîner de Cons is a classic French comedy that became an essential piece of French cinematography over the years. This film offers a look into modern life in France, as opposed to Au Revoir les Enfants’ historical setting, and comedically introduces relevant topics such as marriage, sports rivalries, and tax fraud. The language, as with Au Revoir les Enfants, is fast and authentic, challenging the viewer to keep up with its pace and vocabulary. A revered French comedy, French students of any level of proficiency would surely benefit from watching this timeless classic.

The balance struck between Au Revoir les Enfants and Le Dîner de Cons, one of drama and comedy, historic themes and modern situations, provides an excellent opportunity for French students to learn about French culture and language while being fully entertained the whole time. French 3 students were quite lucky to watch these two incredible French movies to improve their language skills and understanding of French culture; they provide perfect examples of how much French cinematography can help those aspiring to learn about its culture and become proficient in its language.

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Learning the Culture of France Through Movies