The Teachers' Lounge

A series of petty thefts in a German school set off a chain of unfortunate events for a well-meaning teacher in this tightly wound drama that never quite achieves its ambitions as a parable for real-world issues

Film Review by Rory Doherty | 08 Apr 2024
  • The Teacher's Lounge
Film title: The Teachers' Lounge
Director: İlker Çatak
Starring: Leonie Benesch, Leo Stettnisch, Eva Löbau, Michael Klammer, Rafael Stachoviak, Anne-Kathrin Gummich, Kathrin Wehlisch, Sarah Bauerett, Oscak Zickur, Antonia Luise Krämer, Elsa Kireger, Vincent Stachowiak, Can Rodenbostel, Padmé Hamdemir, Lisa Marie Trense
Release date: 12 Apr
Certificate: 12A

Bureaucratic systems have a knack for suppressing empathy, not to mention mistaking conformity for justice; those who stand out from the pack are often assumed to be wrong regardless of what they stand for. In İlker Çatak’s drama about administrative hysteria within a German school, a young teacher, Carla Nowak (played by Leonie Benesch), demonstrates a clear strength of character even before a panic begins about staff and pupils being targeted by accusations of theft. The tightly wound chaos that unfolds over a brisk 98 minutes, during which the scrutiny of teacher boundaries and shades of cultural prejudice are explored, feels incredibly loaded in a contemporary German context.

Carla, a Polish emigre, starts the film uncomfortable about the invasive ways her peers interrogate her pupils, but when she takes matters into her own hands to uncover a thief in the teacher’s lounge, she immediately loses control as teachers and students react to her own unorthodox methods. 

Benesch leads a confident ensemble, but despite a thoughtful approach to the divisions in a diverse Germany, Çatak’s film feels like it was designed to be an anxiety-inducing exercise rather than a challenging exploration of a society in crisis. The camerawork is effectively frenetic and the intense strings of Marvin Miller’s score evoke a hot-tempered mood, but too often the script feels on the verge of taking us down more interesting paths but never crosses the precipice. As a result, The Teacher’s Lounge skates over its issues without finding something novel or earthshaking to say about them.

 Released 12 Apr by Curzon; certificate 12A