Class Trip (1998)

“It’s very easy, you know, to disappear.”

Class Trip (La Classe de Neige) from director Claude Miller is a strange and ultimately unsatisfying film that just misses being memorable. The film begins in a classroom meeting with parents listening to the teacher’s instructions regarding the upcoming class trip to the Alps. While the parents gather and attentively listen to the teacher’s long list of required belongings, the parents (Francois Roy and Tina Sportolaro) of Nicolas, a particularly sad, and solemn child stick out.

Nicolas’s father, who is annoyingly overprotective, decides to drive Nicolas to the resort rather than allow him to take the trip by bus with the rest of the children. Nicolas sticks out like a sore thumb, and while the other children experience joy and a sense of liberation in the new environment, Nicolas is solemn, emotionally withdrawn, and terrified he’ll wet the bed. Haunted by gruesome daydreams and nightmares, it’s obvious to his teachers that Nicolas is ‘different,’ but all their kindnesses and special attentions fail to reach this damaged child. Nicolas, does, however, establish an unlikely relationship with the class extrovert, Hodkann (Lokman Nalcakan).

The film goes back and forth between reality and fantasy as Nicolas slides into nightmares and gory daydreams. While these are necessary to show Nicolas’s damaged emotional state, these interjections became too much when the film blurs the fantasy sequences into reality. At times it’s clear that Nicolas is having yet another nightmare, but at other times it isn’t obvious until the nightmares become horrific and surreal.

One of the best scenes in the film takes place with Nicolas and his father at the fairground. The father warns Nicolas to avoid strangers and then proceeds to tell him about organ thieves who lure children away and steal their kidneys. It’s not an easy task for parents to alert their children about evil in the world without pricking the protective bubble of their innocent childhood, but there’s also a fine line between warning children of the many dangers they face and paralyzing them with fear. Is Nicolas’s father just over protective or is there something more sinister afoot?

Class Trip wasn’t what I expected, and it was certainly interesting enough to keep me watching to the end. Also, I enjoyed the film’s realistic portrayal of children. I just tried to watch a film from a child’s perspective that was sickening sentimental; Class Trip did not fall into that trap of idolizing its child subjects. Unfortunately, the film’s unsatisfying ending left a lot to be desired. In French with subtitles.

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