The Teachers' Lounge

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway


Director İlker Çatak (“I Was, I Am, I Will Be”) has a riveting thriller in “The Teacher’s Lounge.” With apprehensive claustrophobic tones reminiscent of “Notes on a Scandal,” this film presents a teacher caught in a sequence of moral dilemmas that snowball into absolute panic.

Carla Nowak (Leonie Benesch) is an idealistic new teacher. After a string of odd school thefts, Nowak has the initiative to secretly record the interior of the teacher’s lounge. To her horror and disbelief, her laptop camera reveals a co-worker stealing her wallet. Nowak understandably thinks the suspect is probably office worker Mrs. Kuhn (Eva Löbau) who happens to be the mother of Oskar (Leonard Stettnisch), one of Nowak’s best students.

A saddened and shocked Nowak painstakingly attempts to convince Kuhn to return the money, but she adamantly refuses, maintaining her innocence again and again. The accusation reaches Oskar who turns vengeful.

The tranquility that Nowak so cherishes becomes nonexistent, seemingly overnight.

This film is a sociological study of hysteria, bureaucracy, and mass behavior.

Everything that Nowak touches is tainted and turned upside down despite her best intentions. In a manner fitting Franz Kafka, she is repeatedly manipulated and misunderstood.

Benesch has never been better, while Stettnisch as the youngster driven by frustration and simmering anger, creates a gem of a role, a curious blend of frisson and fragility.

The stark objective visual frames also recall the films “The Assistant” and “Tar,” but you will no doubt feel for Mrs. Nowak along with Oskar. The sequence of events has a terrible and deliberate sense of inevitability that echoes the best of existential fiction.

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