Saturday, March 09, 2024

Das Lehrerzimmer / The Teachers' Lounge

Ilker Çatak: Das Lehrerzimmer / The Teachers' Lounge (DE 2023) starring Leonie Benesch.

Viewed at UGC Odéon, 124 bd Saint-Germain, 75006 Paris, 9 March 2024.

Introduction by Bilge Ebiri at Telluride Film Festival: 
Made possible by a donation from Keller Doss
The winner of numerous German Film Awards (Best Picture, Director, Actress, Screenplay and Editing), Ilker Çatak’s nerve-wracking drama (he wrote the script with Johannes Duncker) follows a new teacher (a mesmerizing Leonie Benesch) as she attempts to get to the truth behind a series of alleged robberies at her school. Irked by how quickly others blame a Turkish student, she takes matters into her own hands. But that only sets off a cascade of schoolwide crises. Çatak and director of photography Judith Kaufmann create a vivid sense of place, perfectly capturing the antiseptic awkwardness of school life for both teachers and students. But then he twists the screws—narratively, emotionally, and stylistically—until what emerges is an allegory of paranoia, surveillance, and institutional failure. Even the best of intentions can fray the social fabric. –BE 
(Germany, 2023, 94m) In person: Ilker Çatak "

AA: Another masterpice from 2023, a great year in the cinema. I heard good buzz in Telluride, revered colleagues praising The Teachers' Lounge as the best film of the festival, but the screening that I planned was late in the last evening, I had to leave early next morning, so I missed it. It is worth waiting for.

I was impressed by an earlier İlker Çatak film, Es gilt das gesprochene Wort / I Was, I Am, I Will Be (2019), which I saw during the corona lockdown via the online edition of the Midnight Sun Film Festival, based on a recommendation by Olaf Möller. It was a film deep in character, always unpredictable, always unusual in its theme of the culture clash, facing clichés and transcending them.

The Teachers' Lounge has a situation like a thriller, and the approach to the storytelling is like that of an exemplary thriller. I believe that we see in the movie the solution to the crime spree, but the point of the narrative is not the solution but a revelation, or a whole series of them. We observe how a misunderstanding occurs and inflicts an escalating series of new misunderstandings. This insight about an inflammatory ambience enabling suspicion, friction, disturbance, defamation and harassment is a key point in The Teachers' Lounge.

In spring 2024 there is a mini-wave of films about the school world, also including Pas de vagues / The Good Teacher (FR 2024, Teddy Lussi-Modeste), Amal, un esprit libre (BE 2024, Jawal Rhalib), Magyarázat minderne / L'Affaire Abel Trem / Explanation to Everything (HU 2023, Gábor Reisz) and The Making of a Japanese (JP 2023) by Ema Ryan Yamazaki, not forgetting Ducobu passe au vert ! (FR 2024, Élie Semoun).

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