The Teachers’ Lounge (‘Das Lehrerzimmer’)

DRAMA; 1hr 34min (German with subtitles)

STARRING: Leonie Benesch, Eve Löbau, Leonard Stettnisch

Side-eye: Benesch and Stettnisch

Carla Nowak (Benesch) is the wholehearted schoolteacher you wish you’d had — a beacon of can-do empathy and a steadfast advocate for the kids in her 6th-grade class. She has her work cut out for her, both inside that classroom, then more pressingly out of it, when theft rears its ugly head and everyone gets antsy. Suspicion falls first on Carla’s male students, before targeting a school administration worker (Löbau as Friederike Kuhn), whose son (Stettnisch as Oskar) is in Carla’s class and whom Carla is instrumental in accusing.


Like any hierarchy, a school is a scaffold of power plays. When that scaffold collapses, it’s liable to take its scrupulously established order down with it — this time in a mare’s nest of accusations. With bewildering velocity, Carla’s orderly class flies out of control. The parents of her students turn on her at a mean-spirited meeting and the other teachers are at each other’s throats (in, of course, their lounge), leaving Carla outnumbered and under the gun.


If nothing else, the nightmare of Carla’s tirelessly choreographed fall from grace, which sees a non-stop Benesch working as hard as her cornered subject, should serve as a perspective reboot for anyone with co-worker issues. At its most potent, director IIker Çatak’s quagmire of cross-purposes is an unsettling lesson in the tenuousness of the structures we build to protect our most vulnerable selves — through childhood and beyond.