“The Teachers’ Lounge” (“Das Lehrerzimmer”)


Metacritic (8/10), Letterboxd (4/5), Imdb.com (8/10), TMDB.com (4/5)

In recent years, we’ve all seen examples of incidents that start out comparatively small but that quickly get blown all out of proportion – and unreasonably so at that. As developments emerge and explode under these conditions, they often lose all sense of rationality and soon take on lives of their own, expanding into tangential and seemingly unrelated areas that have virtually nothing to do with the event that spawned them. And, in the end, we’re left with outcomes that seem inappropriate and ill-suited to what launched these insane scenarios in the first place. That’s what writer-director Ilker Çatak explores in his latest offering, a dramatic satire about what unexpectedly grows out of a case of petty theft in the teachers’ lounge at a German middle school. Before long, the victim in this incident (Leonie Benesch) becomes swept up in a very public dust-up that leads to her becoming a very public pariah in the eyes of her peers, her students and their parents, while those in official capacities sit on the sidelines and do virtually nothing to address the issue. The situation thus serves as a microcosmic metaphor for what’s happening on a wider scale in society at large today, drawing in such ancillary elements as racial and national prejudice, the incendiary role of the media, the impact of unsubstantiated innuendo, the protection of personal privacy, the indulgence of contemporary youth, and the sway of fake news in shaping public opinion, a rather full plate of dubious and unsavory fallout stemming from comparatively meager beginnings. While some may contend that these outcomes are somewhat exaggerated in nature, they nevertheless collectively draw attention to undeniably troubling issues desperately in need of attention in our increasingly out-of-control world, global concerns that obviously transcend national borders, all punctuated here with more than a few hefty infusions of wickedly absurdist humor. “The Teachers’ Lounge” might not appeal to everyone, but, for those who enjoy films that aren’t afraid to present biting social commentary, this should be added to your watch list. As the picture so sadly shows, even supposedly civil environments aren’t immune from the kind of social nonsense depicted here, a troubling teaching for all of us who are looking for a return to sanity in an increasingly crazy existence.