The Teachers’ Lounge 2023 Movie Review
Anyone who thinks about school films at night in Germany will quickly lose sleep. It doesn’t sound entirely clean, it’s not entirely true either, but most of the time it does, and Heine always fits, you don’t even have to go back far, just think about Sönke Wortmann’s Enclosed Society, which once again showed how last year How low you can sink in order to shred an inherently relevant sociotope, on which an entire society stands or falls, in an outrageous film.
But luckily there is another way, luckily there is İlker Çatak, who has already shown with his last two films, The Spoken Word (2019) and Robber’s Hands ( 2021), that he can translate socially relevant topics into a complex and creative film language can transfer.
This also applies to Çatak’s The Teacher’s Room, which essentially tells the story of a theft in the teacher’s room at a high school. A theft of a small sum of money would hardly cause any waves, but Carla Nowak, portrayed in an exciting and ambivalently oscillating manner by Leonie Benesch, who has only been at the school for a short time and has established a distinct ahierarchical ethos of justice with her students, sees it differently and takes issue with it This creates a cascade of justice that, in its drama and radicalism, is reminiscent of the fate of Michael Kohlhaas in Heinrich von Kleist’s great novella.
Çatak and his screenwriter Johannes Duncker tell this core story confidently and authentically, which may also be because both were inspired by personal experiences: Çatak attended a school in Turkey from the eighth grade, where he felt the wallets of the male students witnessed by the teaching staff and Duncker’s sister, as a mathematics teacher, was confronted with the consequences of theft in her own teacher’s room.
This everyday life in the teacher’s room is realistically staged by Çatak in quick cuts. The usual “clique behavior” of teachers is introduced, which does not look much different than that of the students, in which there are also outsiders and leaders and exclusions are just as much a part of the group process. Carla is more and more affected by such exclusion the more she advocates for a “fair” solution to the problem and takes justice into her own hands and, in an enervating downward spiral, has to realize that justice can create injustice and that a solution is not a solution and understanding no understanding.
This may sound a bit like vigilante films, the so-called vigilante genre , stories about ordinary people who, after an attack on themselves, friends, family or society, take the law into their own hands and turn on the perpetrators or the entire society revenge so that we can ultimately wake up in a better world. But Çatak takes a different path with his Carla than Ilja Naischuller with his hero Hutch in Nobody, he involves the entire society through the staff of his film – the other teachers, the director and also the students and their parents and not forgetting the school newspaper – and shows how the big world works with minimal effort via the small school world . Or just doesn’t work. Shows systemic racism, shows how fake news arises and the pillory qualities of social media, and shows how truth takes on new meaning through the new cancel culture paradigms, and above all asks the fundamental question of where law ends Injustice begins and when judgment and prejudice can hardly be distinguished. And is therefore very close to Foucault and the viral boils of an omnipresent disciplinary society .
Underneath this almost philosophical superstructure, some dialogues now and then actually sound like this superstructure, with one or two things being explained too much instead of being played out through dialogue. But Çatak ultimately navigates these dangerous rapids without suffering too much damage. This is also because his outstanding ensemble – including Eva Löbau, Leonard Stettnisch, Michael Klemm, Rafael Stachowiak, Anne-Kathrin Gummich and Kathrin Wehlisch – not only acts as a representative for the complex cosmos of ideas that is spread out here, but also as a representative of his staff There is enough space to develop the necessary character density and thereby to interlink the theory so finely with a closely observed and realistic, never predictable everyday school life,
And that is as ambivalent and clever as the basic premises of this dark drama.