The Teachers’ Lounge (2023)

March 7th, 2024
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir: Ìlker Çatak | Cast: Leonie Benesch, Leonard Stettnisch | Germany, Drama 98′

Weird things are happening in schools all over Europe and in this shrewd and serrated psychological thriller from German director Ìlker Çatak, the focus is a series of thefts that take place in a German secondary school.

There’s a brittle quality to the central character Carla Nowak – a highly sensitive Leonie Benesch (The Crown) – who soon gains our sympathies as a committed and professional Maths teacher who hails originally from Polish stock and speaks fluent English to boot. Naturally she shares her fellow teachers’ disquiet about a series of thefts and the heavy-handed way they are being dealt with by the powers that be in this bright and well designed educational establishment in Westphalia. And the tension that surrounds Carla’s attempt to address the matter, after a boy with Turkish parents has his rucksack searched, drives the mystery forward with a needling and urgent score.

The school makes an apology for the embarrassment caused to the boy, and young Carla does her best to deal diplomatically with his parents. But then Carla is faced with fresh controversy when money is stolen from her own purse by what looks like another member of staff with a boy at the school. It appears that Carla has recorded the event on her laptop – in footage that shows the woman’s distinctive flower- patterned blouse. Carla confronts her colleague, an unrepentant Mrs Kuhn (Eva Lobau), who refuses to fess up despite the laptop evidence and this leads to the woman being suspended.

But far from gaining her fellow colleagues support they all start to question Carla’s actions – Frau Kuhn’s little boy self-righteously ups the ante claiming the Maths teacher should apologise to his mother for falsely accusing her of a unproven crime. This sends Carla scuppering into the bathroom to assuage her nerves with the help of a plastic bin liner. She spends the rest of the film in a state of high anxiety, back-footed by the boy’s stance and generally incredulous at the collective unsupportive reactions of everyone involved.

Cast your mind back to The Hunt where Mads Mikkelsen found himself as a teacher in similar territory, accused of inappropriate behaviour with a child pupil, and this is how this situation gradually spins out of control for Carla in The Teachers’ Lounge with its chewy ethical concerns provided for in a meaty script from Catak and his co-writer Johannes Dunker. They leave us somewhat in the lurch in the final stretch which loses power despite a febrile performance from Benesch who remains memorable as a decent woman scorned MT


Copyright © 2024 Filmuforia