The Teachers’ Lounge
MOVIE | German film tells an intense story of middle school scandal, but the credits roll too soon
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ALL STORIES need an ending. But with The Teachers’ Lounge, German director Ilker Çatak must have missed the memo.
Ms. Carla Nowak (Leonie Benesch) teaches sixth graders, and she cares about her students. Rumors of petty theft have circulated around the school, and Ms. Nowak dislikes how the other teachers throw around accusations. To exonerate the students, Ms. Nowak hides a camera in the teachers’ lounge. What she captures shocks the administration and puts a colleague’s job at risk. When word gets out about her espionage, parents worry for their children’s safety, teachers fear being filmed without their permission, and the students become mistrustful of Ms. Nowak.
The German film has English subtitles, but none of the intensity is lost. It’s a well-acted film, and we feel Ms. Nowak’s anxiety. Benesch’s performance alone might explain its Oscar nomination for best international feature film.
During intense moments, a few characters swear and use inappropriate gestures, but there’s little other objectionable content. All action takes place at the middle school, but the movie doesn’t drag. In fact, its brevity is something of a weakness. The Teachers’ Lounge might have served as a metaphor for our divided society, but just when the story should reach a point of resolution, the credits roll.
The movie begins with Ms. Nowak gesturing for her students to stand amid sounds of an orchestra tuning, a scene that invites viewers to think of her as a conductor. But if the film were indeed a symphony, it would be one in which the musicians pack up their instruments before they play the last measure.