A minor theft leads to major consequences in the The Teachers’ Lounge (Das Lehrerzimmer), an expertly crafted German drama that deftly compounds frustrating decision after frustrating decision to ultimate effect.
Leonie Benesch plays Carla Nowak, a teacher new to her school who is well-liked and respected by staff and students alike. But after catching a coworker stealing some cash from her wallet–well, she’s pretty sure it was her coworker–the decisions she and the administration make spiral out of control, affecting everyone around her.
Benesch is terrific in the understated role. Her character does the right thing but doesn’t always take the right action; she may not be a walking contradiction but her moral convictions get the better of her. Benesch delivers her searing performance with her face; often the emotion is bubbling–waiting to burst–just under the surface, but you can see the growing strain in her cheeks and eyes. It’s a moving performance.
The movie itself, from director and co-writer Ilker Çatak, is an exercise in frustration. Intentionally. What should have been a simple, isolated incident grows like cancer, festering until the end result is unrecognizable. What’s really impressive about The Teacher’s Lounge is that you can’t look to a single moment to identify where things went awry; it’s a sharply executed tale of little, innocuous actions pieced together that build upon each other. Çatak and co-writer Johannes Duncker’s screenplay is an indelible delight, an exercise in precision.
The Teacher’s Lounge plays like a thriller–it is a thriller–yet one set amidst bright lights, bleached colors, and friendly faces. One small decision you can make that won’t be so frustrating: watch the film.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.