The Teacher’s Lounge

February 9, 202480/1006 min
Starring
Leonie Benesch, Anne-Kathrin Gummich, Rafael Stachowiak
Written by
Johannes Duncker and IIker Catak
Directed by
IIker Catak
Run Time
1h 38min
Release Date
February 9th, 2024
Overall Score
Rating Summary

In all my years of school growing up, I always wanted to somehow make it into the teacher’s lounge, as it felt like the most forbidden place at the time. Of course, as an adult, I know a teacher’s lounge is just like any breakroom you would see at any corporate office. Even still, it somehow holds a special place in my mind. After watching Ilker Catak’s new film, The Teacher’s Lounge, the pedestal I had put that place on felt justified, as it seems things really can go down in that room like no other.

Carla Nowak (Leonie Bensch) is enjoying her first semester at a new school, where she teaches sixth grade math. The school, though, has been having a problem with thefts, and the administration, along with some teachers, are trying to figure out who is to blame. One method they are trying is to get student representatives to report on their fellow students, particularly those who seem to have more cash or have recently acquired new items. Mrs. Nowak, while she wants to find the thief, does not agree with the methods the school is using to do so. After her students are separated by gender, and then the boys are asked to leave their wallets on the desk, Mrs. Nowak disagrees even more with her school’s solution to discover the thief. While in the teacher’s lounge, she witnesses a fellow teacher taking some money out of the coffee piggy bank, which gives her an idea. So she sets a trap by leaving her wallet filled with money and setting up her laptop to record what happens. The recording captures someone taking the money, but with only a shirt to go on, she starts to look for the culprit. Eventually, she does find the culprit, and after reporting it, the string that she has pulled is about to unravel the peacefulness of her new job.

Written by Johannes Duncker and Ilker Catak, the latter also directing, deliver a very focused story that avoids any side steps while still covering multiple topics. These include abuse of power, racism, prejudice, and even fabricated news, all taking place in an unnamed school, because this could happen anywhere. The pacing and tone are delivered very confidently, as the conflicts never feels manufactured, and the characters’ decisions always feel like logical choices. There is also an excellent job of tension building, as the story always seems to go in the opposite direction of what you think it will, all enhanced with a great score by Marvin Miller.

The Teacher’s Lounge delivers one of the more thrilling movies I have seen in a while, which is incredible since it takes place entirely at a single location. The cast is great, but Leonie Benesch really stands out and is hard to take your eyes off of her as Carla. It is her performance that also adds to the simmering tension the film has, as you feel like the characters are all on a path that will not end well for them. We all want to do the right thing, but sometimes that right thing leads us into moral pitfalls. That is what happens with Carla, as The Teacher’s Lounge reminds us that truth is not always fact, and that facts do not always lead to the truths we each hold.

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