'The Teachers' Lounge' review: This sensational thriller's biggest risk might be its premise

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Leonie Benesch stars arsenic a people schoolhouse coach successful "The Teacher's Lounge."

Leonie Benesch stars an pedagogue connected nan separator of "The Teacher's Lounge." Credit: TIFF

Murder, mayhem, high-stake heists, and intersexual intrigue: These are nan electrifying elements that often travel into play successful a top-notch thriller. The Teachers' Lounge boasts nary of nan above, and yet it conscionable mightiness beryllium nan astir nerve-shredding thriller of nan year. 

The film's premise is boldly debased stakes: cracking nan lawsuit of who is pulling disconnected a bid of petty thefts — cash and pencils — at a German inferior high. Such banal crime shouldn't beryllium interesting, overmuch little enthralling. However, co-writer/director Ilker Çatak masterfully unfurls a sadistically tense communicative that touches connected ethics, racism, loyalty, and nan grim broadside of sticking to your principles. The consequence is simply a lean, slow-burn thriller that is ruthlessly riveting. 

What's nan buzz astir The Teachers' Lounge? 

Ahead of a U.S. merchandise moreover being announced, this German play boasted a 100% Rotten Tomatoes rating retired of its debut astatine nan Berlin International Film Festival. Already, nan movie has been selected arsenic Germany's submission for nan Best International Feature Film for nan upcoming 96th Academy Awards. So, going into its North American Premiere astatine nan Toronto International Film Festival, The Teachers' Lounge is riding a activity of bully connection of rima and coagulated prestige. Don't fto that fool you into reasoning this is immoderate ambitious arthouse thriller. Çatak has crafted a movie that useful its anxiety-inducing magic because it feels truthful damn real. 

What's The Teachers' Lounge about? 

Leonie Benesch stars arsenic Carla (aka Ms. Nowak), a coach caller retired of assemblage who's dedicated to doing her very champion for her students. In class, this intends showing patience and putting down bullying. But extracurricular of class, she's forced complete and complete to take sides her students arsenic petty thefts move different teachers into amateur detectives, keen to interrogate, racially profile, frisk, and intimidate nan kids. When Carla sets up a hidden camera snare, she hopes to bring a speedy and quiet extremity to each this play — including its related abuses of power. Instead, she is pulled into a quagmire of accusations, suspicion, and betrayal that reaches crossed nan faculty, student body, and beyond. 

The Teacher's Lounge churns tension, acknowledgment to Leonie Benesch and a nerve-plucking score.

Çatak and co-writer Johannes Duncker connection a deceptively elemental narrative. There's nary shattering crippled twist here. Instead, it's a cascade of insignificant calamity. An outburst sparks debate. A rumor sparks a panic. A selfish interest spawns sprawling paranoia. As nan institution astir her quakes pinch emotion and grown-ups costs warfare pinch children for power of nan communicative — which is simply a losing conflict from nan commencement — Carla fights for truth, justice, and nan student who has been unfairly dragged into nan middle. 

Benesch shoulders nan movie remarkably. Carla is simply a heroine who is high-minded but introverted. Very alert that each eyes are connected her, she is precise successful her chosen words. But Benesch's eyes, afloat of fury and pain, definitive nan rage she holds within. Her physicality, shifting from soft astir her homeroom to crisp erstwhile successful conflict, speaks to nan unit put upon her each move. Her sound switches from composed to clipped erstwhile she's caught off-guard by students, who play bait-and-switch pinch a schoolhouse insubstantial question and reply turned uneven exposé. Benesch imbues her beingness capacity pinch nan seizures of worry and interest that torture her heroine.

Where Carla swallows her worry and vexation to support composure earlier her class, nan people by Marvin Miller sings of building tension. Violins pluck and screech, giving extent to nan play successful these dingy schoolhouse hallways. The shrill cries of strings are unnerving, refusing nan spectator a abstraction to coolly bespeak connected nan fast-unfurling fiasco. Like Carla, we mightiness consciousness overwhelmed — particularly arsenic Çatak breaks from authenticity for a touch of nan surreal. 

In a movie painted successful muted colors pinch a accumulation creation that is purposefully mundane, a agleam achromatic blouse pinch childishly ample yellowish stars stands out. A clue, a condemnation, past — arsenic Carla originates to uncertainty herself — this blouse transforms into nan halfway of a imagination that collides reality pinch fear, truth pinch confusion. It's a mini flourish successful a movie that is rigorously real, but a important 1 that reflects really Carla is being torn isolated by nan unit of not only being a defender of her students, but besides surviving up to her precocious standards for herself. 

While nan stakes look low, The Teachers' Lounge expertly reveals really terrible nan consequences tin beryllium for a insignificant transgression (or a minor's transgression). The movie urges audiences to mobility nan wider governmental meaning of this teacher's struggle — to not only understand her plight, but besides that of nan students who astir voraciously reason her. Unfurling anger and empathy successful a 3rd enactment that hits for illustration a rustle to nan head, The Teachers' Lounge is uniquely thrilling, sophisticatedly entrancing, and yet haunting. 

A communicative of bully intentions and wounded feelings, pinch each grounded but growling segment The Teachers' Lounge drives location nan scary that connected immoderate fixed day, this spiraling nightmare could beryllium your own.

The Teacher's Lounge is now successful theaters.

UPDATE: Dec. 21, 2023, 2:07 p.m. EST The Teacher's Lounge was reviewed retired of its North American Premiere astatine 2023 Toronto International Film Festival. The article has been republished for nan film's theatrical debut successful nan US.

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Kristy Puchko is nan Film Editor astatine Mashable. Based successful New York City, she's an established movie professional and intermezo reporter, who has traveled nan world connected assignment, covered a assortment of movie festivals, co-hosted movie-focused podcasts, interviewed a wide array of performers and filmmakers, and had her activity published connected RogerEbert.com, Vanity Fair, and The Guardian. A personnel of nan Critics Choice Association and GALECA arsenic good arsenic a Top Critic connected Rotten Tomatoes, Kristy's superior attraction is movies. However, she's besides been known to gush complete television, podcasts, and committee games. You tin travel her connected Twitter.

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