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Review: The Teacher’s Lounge. How to manufacture mass hysteria

  • Release year: 2023
  • Director: Ilker Çatak.
  • Producers: Ingo Fliess.
  • Screenplay by: Johannes Duncker and Ilker Çatak.
  • Cinematographer: Judith Kaufmann.
  • Music by: Marvin Miller.

Synopsis: a novice teacher discovers the ugly side of being part of the school staff.

Shotgun Commentary:  a teacher’s worst nightmare manifested.

Carla (Leonie Benesch) greeting her class. Source: The Teacher’s Lounge
(Ilker Çatak, 2023). Courtesy of: Sony Pictures Classics.

Review

The Teacher’s Lounge is a German film that touches upon the subject of weaponised paranoia and its ramifications. Kinda like The Mist (2007), but with less physical violence.

In this case, the audience is placed in a school where several thefts have brought out the worst in people. The main character, Carla Novak (Leonie Benesch), decides to figure out who is stealing to stop the nonsensical behaviour of her peers and prevent the consequences of it from reaching the children. However, everything that can go wrong, does.

The worst in people

When the film begins, some of the thefts have already taken place. The staff is distrustful of everyone, but they don’t want to show it, so they turn their suspicions to the students. This leads to pressuring children to tell on their classmates and searches of their personal belongings during class.

Two teachers arguing. Source: The Teacher’s Lounge (Ilker Çatak, 2023).
Courtesy of: Sony Pictures Classics.

Their behaviour is no more mature than that of scared kids. They turn on each other at the first sign of disagreement. They whisper and gossip about other colleagues and, worst of all, interrogate and harass students without any regard for the law or their wellbeing.

This display of how people turn into monsters at the first sight of difficulties is not an original subject. However, the mixture of children and adult behaviour, along with that of paranoia, manipulation and bureaucracy, makes the plot complex, engaging and incredibly suffocating.

The escalation

Carla doesn’t share their sentiment. She sees those actions for the violation of privacy and integrity that they are, and decides to take matters into her own hands. While her intentions are good, the decision to record footage of the teacher’s lounge is also a violation of privacy, regardless of the footage only showing a jacket and an arm. This action appears to point directly to one person, Friederike Kuhn (Eva Löbau), who claims she is innocent despite the obvious.

The intricacy of the problem lies on how and what information is shared. Despite Carla trying to keep it secret, both other educators and pupils gossip around her. Thus, transforming the real events into all sorts of ridiculous lies.

Carla being judged by students. Source: The Teacher’s Lounge (Ilker Çatak, 2023). Courtesy of: Sony Pictures Classics.

In this climate of suspicion in which the students don’t receive any information, they begin to make up their own. The gossip between tutors, parents and children creates a feedback lop that increases the gravity of the situation.

The manipulation of school media, the half-truths, the secrets and the complete lack of real regard for justice or veracity in favour of the juiciest content. These are what make the world as misinformed as it is today. In a world where all the knowledge is seconds away, individuals are more ignorant than ever. The Teacher’s Lounge is but an example of that situation applied to a small environment.

The martyr

Carla, portrayed by Leonie Benesch, is an idealistic teacher that learns throughout her experience in the feature that the world of education is not as honest and caring as she thought. Regardless, she fights for the wellbeing of the kids until the end, even when that implies being the victim of physical violence and psychological abuse.

Carla watching Oskar (Leonard Stettnisch). Source: The Teacher’s Lounge
(Ilker Çatak, 2023). Courtesy of: Sony Pictures Classics.

Benesch embodies Carla beautifully. The constant feeling of a pressure cooker about to explode is palatable, her frustration and despair is obvious and, despite not sharing her feeling textually, Benesch makes sure that all of Carla’s emotions are clearly on display for the spectators to see.

The selfish

Oskar (Leonard Stettnisch), the son of the worker accused of stealing, is another important factor in the incident that takes place in the school. As a reaction to the accusation, Oskar becomes more antagonistic towards Carla.

His mother Friederike, the person who is supposed to protect and want the best for him, poisons him against his teacher out of spite, without a care of how that will affect his son in the future. Löbau has a very interesting character to showcase, while her appearances are not that numerous, they are intense and telling of how the story is going to go.

Carla watching Oskar (Leonard Stettnisch) looking at asomething. Source:
The Teacher’s Lounge (Ilker Çatak, 2023). Courtesy of: Sony Pictures Classics.

Friederike is a woman who puts her pride and sense of revenge above the future of her child, and Löbau shares her intentions with mere looks and expressions. The lack of dialogue in some of her appearances, much like in Benesch’s case, add weight to certain moments of the narrative.

The victim

Oskar is a very smart kid, but, like most children, is unable to foresee the extent to which his current actions will negatively affect his future. Carla tries to fill in the role of protective mother that Friederike neglects, but her real mom’s behaviour sabotages the educator’s good intentions.

Oskar watching Carla silently. Source: The Teacher’s Lounge (Ilker Çatak, 2023). Courtesy of: Sony Pictures Classics.

Oskar, believing he can change things and defend his mother’s honour, acts up in order to “beat” his teacher. Ultimately, he is another victim of a system run by insecure, impulsive and entitled adults, and he doesn’t even realise it.

Advice to take from this movie:

  • Don’t try to be the hero of a place whose functioning you don’t know.
  • Not everyone is fit to be a parent, if you are unwilling to prioritise your children to you, don’t have kids.
  • Teachers take an enormous amount of bullsh*t from kids and adults, unless it’s your vocation, Nay!, your obsession, don’t be a teacher.
Carla yelling with her students. Source: The Teacher’s Lounge (Ilker Çatak, 2023). Courtesy of: Sony Pictures Classics.

What’s your take? Have you watched The Teacher’s Lounge? What did you think of the situation? Don’t hesitate to let me know your thoughts in the comments section below, or leave a message in my contact page! For more reviews and cinema-related articles, check out the rest of my blog! 😀

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