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France, 1998 (MIFF 1999, International Panorama)

Director: Claude Miller

Nicholas is an exceptionally nervous young boy with an overactive imagination. He's also nursing no small amount of paranoia. Claude Miller's The Class Trip (winner of the Jury Prize at Cannes 1998) recounts the trauma of Nicholas' winter vacation, a compelling evocation of a troubled childhood on par with Neil Jordan's The Butcher Boy (MIFF 1998).

This serious psychological drama begins with the frail and melancholy Nicholas about to embark on a school skiing trip. A professional worrier, his insecure father raises numerous questions about the safety of the trip, concerned about a recent bus accident in which 15 children were killed (shades of The Sweet Hereafter?). After deliberation Dad decides to drive the boy himself, a journey that only magnifies Nicholas' anxiety.

Leaving his luggage behind, the first of many disasters to befall him, leads to a new friendship with Hodkann, an undisciplined youngster who loans Nicholas pajamas. Divided into distinct chapters, The Class Trip presents enactments of fantasies from Nicholas' fertile mind, images and incidents of horror dominated by violence and torture. As it transpires, Nicholas' experiences at camp are far worse than his most far fetched phobias and the core theme of the film is encapsulated early on when he asks, "Is it true that if you think very hard about something it really happens?"

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