By: Lana K. Wilson-Combs
The Oscar nominated German film, "The Teacher's Lounge,"
("Best International Feature"), from director "İlker Çatak
who co-wrote the movie with Johannes Duncker"
("I Was, I Am, I Will Be") unfolds like a taut murder mystery. From the opening to the bitter end, this is one mesmerizing drama.
Leonie Benesch (TV's "The Swarm" and "The Crown") plays Carla Nowak, a new, young and inspiring physical education teacher at a public school in Germany. At first blush Carla appears to have a handle on her classroom of sixth graders. They seem to like her. That changes quickly when a rash of thefts occur at the school.
However, none of the teachers have a clue who is behind the stealing. So, the principal Bettina Bohm (Anne-Kathrin Gummich) and teacher Milosz Dudek (Rafael Stachoviak) insist on inspecting all the boys wallets/pockets in Carla's class. All eyes initially are on the Turkish/Muslim kid named Ali (Can Rodenbostel) because he has a pocketful of money. He also has adamant parents who inform the school administrators that they gave Ali the money to purchase video games.
Then when Carla notices someone has taken money from her wallet which was inside the pocket of her jacket that she had in the teacher's lounge, that changes everything. Carla decides to use her laptop and record the goings on in the lounge, hoping she'll catch the person red-handed.
She's stunned to see that the alleged thief is Friederike Kuhn (Eva Lobau) who works at the school's administrative office and is the mother of her best student, Oskar. Could Oskar's mom really be stealing?
When the reporters/journalists at the school newspaper get wind of Carla's invasive surveillance of the students and others, her well-meaning attempt at solving the problem only adds to it. The students band together and rebel against her. Leading the charge is Oskar who is angry that his mother's character has been questioned and that she has been placed on leave while the issue is sorted out. He's demanding that Carla publicly apologize.
It's surprising how well structured "The Teacher's Lounge" is. Benesch delivers a masterful performance as this endearing teacher who is trying to get a grip as her life suddenly begins to spiral out of control.
"The Teacher's Lounge" is a surprising, jarring, compelling psychological drama that's worthy of its Oscar nomination.
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Look At This Trailer For "THE TEACHER'S LOUNGE"
Lana K. Wilson-Combs is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA), The American Film Institute (AFI), and a Nominating Committee Voting Member for the NAACP Image Awards.