Middleburg Review: ‘The Teachers’ Lounge’

İlker Çatak's Searing Classroom Drama Hits Upon Current Educational Woes

The inciting incident has already happened when The Teachers’ Lounge begins. Taking place at a German middle school, we first meet sixth-grade teacher Carla Nowak as she and two other co-workers are questioning her class representatives about a series of thefts. We don’t know fully what was stolen, but they indicate a Turkish student may be involved. Carla is watching this interaction go down, stepping in when a teacher starts to cross a boundary. She’s still on the side of the authority but she still wants to do right by these kids. 

It’s a dynamic that Carla (Leonie Benesch) straddles throughout the film. As this Turkish student is questioned, she once again steps in when another teacher is too close to violating civil liberty. She is determined to find out who is committing these thefts but is heavily aware not to disrupt the school environment. 

One day while working in the teachers’ lounge and observing a fellow teacher take some donations from a fundraiser, she decides to stage her own experiment. She leaves her wallet, jacket, and computer behind as she goes to the bathroom. When her computer’s camera is left on, she catches the culprit in the act. Their face is not shown, but Carla does recognize the very distinguished shirt of the school secretary Mrs. Kuhn (Eva Löbau). Her son Oskar (Leonard Stettnisch) is a quiet but bright student in Carla’s class. When confronted with the evidence against her, she starts shouting her innocence as a few students hear down the hall. 

Throughout İlker Çatak and Johannes Duncker’s script, people overhear and gossip while Carla tries to do the right thing. Çatak, who is also the director of The Teachers’ Lounge builds tension within that snowball effect with closeups and sweeping pans in an almost comical way. He uses classroom management techniques as a way to show Carla’s loss of control among her students as Oskar plans a pre-teen coup. 

One of the biggest complaints teachers, parents, and students have after returning to school after COVID is how much harder it is. While COVID doesn’t play a part in this film, it actively reflects the natural distrust permeating classrooms worldwide. This frustration is reflected as things get out of hand in Carla’s school. She tries her best to fix the problem and defend her students but can’t help when other adults don’t play by the rules. It’s a smaller-scale version of our modern world, which makes The Teachers’ Lounge just as fascinating and defeating.

The Teachers’ Lounge does not have a U.S. release date yet.

'The Teachers' Lounge'
Cortland Jacoby
A D.C area native, Cortland has been interested in media since birth. Taking film classes in high school and watching the classics with family instilled a love of film in Cortland’s formative years. Before graduating with a degree in English and minoring in Film Study from Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania, Cortland ran the college’s radio station, where she frequently reviewed films on air. She then wrote for another D.C area publication before landing at Punch Drunk Critics. Aside from writing and interviewing, she enjoys podcasts, knitting, and talking about representation in media.
middleburg-review-the-teachers-loungeYou won't be able to look away from this searing classroom drama with a standout performance from lead actress Leonie Benesch.