starring Leonie Benesch, Leonard Stettnisch, Eva Löbau, Michael Klammer
screenplay by Ilker Çatak, Johannes Duncker
directed by Ilker Çatak
by Bill Chambers At first, I thought the form of The Teachers' Lounge might be too classically sedate for a quasi-thriller with the dyspeptic energy of an Uncut Gems, but as elementary-school teacher Carla Nowak, a young idealist who's hyperconscious of power imbalances (a Polish immigrant at a German school, she's the kind of person who doesn't like speaking her native tongue with another Polish teacher because it alienates their colleagues), Leonie Benesch is so keyed-up she's practically an aesthetic unto herself. After a teacher is pickpocketed at school, presumably by a student, Ms. Nowak's first priority isn't to the faculty: She doesn't like that the kids are being encouraged to rat on their own and bristles at the racial profiling of one of her sixth-graders when he's singled out for having a large sum of money in his wallet. Later, she thinks she's caught the real thief on camera, long-time receptionist Ms. Kuhn (Eva Löbau), whose son Oskar (Leonard Stettnisch) is in her class. She confronts the woman in private with every intention of letting her off the hook, but she underestimates the gulf between them in terms of age vs. experience, perhaps, or teachers vs. clerical staff, or spinsterhood vs. working single-motherhood, and Ms. Kuhn's indignant reaction scorches the earth, forcing Ms. Nowak's hand. When Ms. Kuhn is put on leave, Oskar tries to pay his mother's tab with his meagre savings, but the debt, of course, has ballooned past any dollar amount. He demands she make some sort of retraction to clear his mother's name. Again, not that simple, and it probably wouldn't do any good, though he's adamant: "You will apologize in public or you'll suffer the consequences."