MOVIE OF THE WEEK January 5, 2024: THE TEACHER’S LOUNGE

Leonie Benesch gives a stellar performance as teacher Carla Nowak in director Ilker Çatak’s tense German drama The Teacher’s Lounge. Pulled in opposing directions by her desire to do the right thing for her young students and the pressure to support the school and its procedures, Carla is barely able to hold herself together — and Benesch conveys that stress and insecurity with every expression that crosses her face.

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THE TEACHER’S LOUNGE – Review by Leslie Combemale

The Teacher’s Lounge takes issues like the perpetration of stereotypes, the malleability of truth, the challenges of the educational system and the growing feelings of alienation that plague modern society and examines them through one cautionary tale. Leonie Benesch plays Carla Nowak, a teacher working at a junior high where the faculty is dealing with petty theft. A little money, some pencils, and other small items have been disappearing. Carla takes it upon herself to try to suss out the culprit, but it leads to accusations, bad feelings, and worse, with members of both the faculty and student body. That may not sound like its 98 minutes are all high pressure, but in director/co-screenwriter Ilker Çatak’s capable hands, they are

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THE TEACHER’S LOUNGE – Review by Nikki Fowler

İlker Çatak’s German thriller The Teachers’ Lounge is a raw donut into the classroom/teacher dynamic where what is usually defined as a safe space in which students are nurtured and educated, is truly at times a petri dish of real-world antics, including racism, crime, cheating, violence, stereotypes, bias and social chaos at some of the most important developmental years of one’s life and it’s not always coming from the students.

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THE TEACHERS’ LOUNGE – Review by Diane Carson

German director İlker Çatak scrutinizes the unraveling in microcosm of an entire community in The Teachers’ Lounge. Racism, institutional bureaucracy, and principled positions fuel heated personal and professional interaction after a Turkish student is falsely accused of theft, his classmates are asked to confirm or refute the accusation, and compassionate, idealistic teacher Carla Nowak seeks the real thief.

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THE TEACHERS’ LOUNGE (TIFF 2023) – Review by Liz Braun

In the school setting, co-writer/director Catak has created a microcosm of the world we live in, with all the same differing factions, prejudices, offhand cruelty and cancel culture machinations available on a daily basis. The Teachers Lounge is a tense, brilliant ride; the film won a handful of German Film Awards in 2023 and will represent Germany in the Best International Film Category at the 2024 Oscars.

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PARADISE – Review by Susan Granger

Admittedly at first, the German dystopian thriller – cryptically titled Paradise – has an intriguing premise but then absurdity takes over. Set sometime in the not-too-distant future, the bio-tech conglomerate Aeon is marketing revolutionary medical equipment that enables people to transfer years of their lifespan from one to another. It’s a controversial system that’s obviously open to corruption and abuse. This sci-fi thriller – with far too many extraneous subplots – questions the morality of buying ‘time’ but soon becomes predictably generic, never delving deeply into the relatable concept of ageism and the philosophical ethics involved in pursuing youth.

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AFIRE (Melbourne IFF 2023) – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

Another Christian Petzold film, another Berlinale award winning banger. His is a steady history of home town wins at the revered German festival, starting as far back as 2003’s Wolfsburg, with Barbara (2012) and Undine (2020) also winning major awards, establishing a strong history that this year’s Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize for Afire continues. Unarguably one of the country’s strongest filmmakers working today, Afire reveals Petzold as someone who is comfortably at the top of their game. It’s a film so technically tight and made with such integrity and precision that it’s a struggle to keep one’s jaw from dropping; it’s an absolute delight to watch.

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AFIRE – Review by Diane Carson

Afire masterfully depicts a taciturn, insecure writer. It takes mere minutes to settle into German writer/director Christian Petzold’s Afire, the title suggesting its incendiary depths. These develop through the interactions of Leon, Felix, Nadja, and Devid, the four sharing photographer Felix’s holiday retreat near Germany’s Baltic Sea.

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TILL THE END OF THE NIGHT – Review by Nadine Whitney

Till the End of the Night is a murky drama that delivers on neither of its premises; it’s not a good crime film (in fact it is a terribly plotted one) and it does nothing to deliver on the love-hate relationship between Leni and Robert. Timocin Ziegler’s performance and dialogue are almost comically awful. However, both Ioana Iacob and Thea Ehre elevate the dire material to have some point of watchability despite everything else in the film sabotaging their work.

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HITLER’S HOLLYWOOD – Retroview by Jennifer Merin

Filmmaker Rudiger Suchsland’s Hitler’s Hollywood is a compilation documentary that uses clips from films produced during the Nazi regime to show how the movies were used to indoctrinate the masses and influence their behavior. The theme and point of view are unique. With its fascinating developmental arc, the film delivers a complete and well-conceived treatise about how the Nazis used movies to influence the masses and how movie production reflected public mood and the zeitgeist during the Nazi regime. It provokes thought about how movies produced today have similar impact on our social expectations and behavior. There are some valuable lessons to be had.

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