L'École du pouvoir (The School of Power) is a four-part TV mini-series directed by Raoul Peck in 2008 for the French TV station Arte.
The series follows the lives of five graduates of the École Nationale d'Administration, an elite French school that serves as the recruiting ground for top administrative, political and corporate positions, between their admission in 1977 and their professional disillusions in 1986.
Abel Karnonski, an idealistic young lawyer who dreams of changing French society, is admitted at the ENA at a time when the right wing's hold on political power is slipping, and a Socialist victory in the next elections looks increasingly likely. He is joined Caroline Séguier, an ambitious aspiring politician; Mathieu Ribero, one of the rare few children of the working class who has managed to rise this high into the system; and Laure and Louis de Cigy, two scions of the aristocracy.
In the course of their studies and then their professional assignments, their ideals are confronted to the harsh realities of governance, and they must choose whether to stick to their principles or compromise.
L'École du pouvoir provides examples of the following tropes:
- Arranged Marriage: Louis, to his cousin.
- Bittersweet Ending
- Celebrity Paradox: All the protagonists are members of the ENA class of 1978, which includes several important figures of contemporary French politics, including President François Hollande. But none of them appears except in short glimpses of archival footage.
- The Government: All the characters end up working for it on a temporary or permanent basis.
- Government Procedural
- Inherent in the System
- Invisible President: Caroline's face time with President Mitterrand takes place offscreen.
- Landslide Election: The Socialist legislative victory of 1981.
- Likes Older Women: Louis has an affair with an attractive married older woman.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: This series sometimes approaches Young Future Famous People territory, by having its main characters resemble Historical Domain Characters, but chooses to steer clear of it by making them all fictional.
- Present-Day Past: Production does an overall good job of recreating the late 1970s and early 1980s, but one does catch glimpses of present-day cars in the background.
- Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism