Tivoli Theatre – After Hours Film Society Presents The Teacher’s Lounge
March 25 @ 7:30 pm
Directed by Ilker Catak
Featuring Leonie Benesch, Leonard Stettnisch, & Eva Lobau
“Gripping. A tense social parable. Leonie Benesch is terrific.”
–Jessica Kiang, Variety
“One of the most thrilling films of the year.”
“All hail the short film, where the tools, canvas, themes, and artistry can be no different as for a feature, but the only restriction is time. Short films maybe less widely seen than the longer kind, but the three Oscar categories devoted to the form provide a welcome spotlight on what makes them special.”
–The Los Angeles Times
Reviewed by Roger Moore | Movie Nation
You don’t have to be a teacher to be triggered by the tense and suspenseful drama “The Teacher’s Lounge,” Germany’s most worthy contender for a Best International Feature Oscar nomination.
A gripping story of idealism battered by bruising reality, high-handed authority and arrogant, misguided students who organize themselves to achieve maximum chaos, “Lounge” is a cautionary slice of education in an “Every parent’s an expert” era. Over-booked teachers are an easy target for parental ire in what passes for a political satire of the corrosive effects of ever-bending tolerance in the face of anarchy. And yet there’s still room to believe the final line of every teacher’s prayer about “reaching just one kid.”
Like schools themselves, Iker Çatak’s film, co-scripted by Johannes Duncker, is loaded with a lot of hopes, expectations and baggage. It is a riveting, intensely disquieting experience.
Leonie Benesch of TV’s “The Crown” stars as Carla Nowak, an idealistic young teacher who seems popular with the sixth graders in her new school. The kids even buy into her cutesy little “Guttentag” call-and-response clap exercise to start each (math) class.
But when we meet her, she’s squirming in her chair and blurting out words of protest. A couple of colleagues, including one who had his pocket picked, are leaning on the two student council representatives who sit in on faculty meetings with the principal (Ann-Kathrin Gummich). There are thefts happening in school, even in the teacher’s lounge. And one teacher in particular (Michael Klammer) is going full authoritarian on making these two name a suspect.
Ms. Nowak’s protests fail. The boys are separated from the girls in her class, and then a “voluntary” search of wallets has the adults accusing a Turkish boy of stealing. That falls apart under examination, and the boy’s parents are understandably outraged at the stigma this puts on their child.
Ms. Nowak may be vindicated, but at what cost? We start to count the ways she’s overly permissive and downright lax in keeping her students in line above and beyond simple “pay attention in class.” She’s intent on giving one and all the benefit of the doubt, allowing a cheater a second chance at taking a test, seeing students to slip out of P.E. to sneak a smoke, and then letting them talk her out of “calling your parents.”
But it’s when Ms. Nowak notices a colleague raiding the coffee fund piggy bank that she decides to take action on this injustice of accusing kids of stealing. She leaves her wallet in her jacket in the lounge, and leaves her laptop open and secretly “watching” that jacket.
Her “discovery” seems damning enough. But even after the accusation, she and we have doubts. The principal gets ahead of herself and in legal terms, they have to retreat to a CYA position. And that’s when parents, students and Nowak’s fellow teachers sense blood in the water.
“What happens in the teacher’s lounge stays in the teacher’s lounge” isn’t funny in this context, deflected in German with English subtitles. Nowak is embattled and at a loss for allies.
Some will try to devour her, or get her fired. Others will fume at how her lack of “solidarity” with the faculty has exposed them all. And she finds herself carrying guilt over the accusation, fretting over collateral damage (the accused thief’s student son, played by Leonard Stettnisch) and under figurative and literal assault from all sides.
We see universal teacher problems such as rude, hotheaded kids who’ve never been taught to apologize, bullies who target the vulnerable as well as smug middle school know-it-alls who figure they can get to the bottom of this school “scandal” via an “interview” with the student newspaper.
Whatever the stakes this story presents, there’s rising suspense over where all this is going, where this disturbed kid or that idealist facing her own idealism will take things.
Benesch makes a wonderfully empathetic and yet maddening heroine. We see what we think are missteps, question Nowak’s confidence and certainty of the comforts of The Moral High Ground, and admire her all the same.
But we fear for her fate and ponder what form “doom” might take, if this gamble on human decency, protecting “the future” through children and strict adherence to political correctness blows up in her face.
$7.00 Members | $11.00 Non-Members
5021 Highland Avenue | Downers Grove, IL
630-968-0219 | classiccinemas.com
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