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FILMS
Review
An opinion piece that you describe, praises or criticizes, on the whole or partly, to cultural or entertainment work. It must be written by an expert on the matter

‘The Teachers’ Lounge’: dark goings-on at school

It doesn’t trigger feelings of rejection, but I am also not drawn into an intrigue that is intended to be complex. I just don’t care about this German movie that is nominated for Best International Feature Film

Película Sala de Profesores
Leonie Benesch and the child actor Leonard Stettnisch, in 'The Teachers' Lounge.'
Carlos Boyero

I spend way too many hours watching today’s cinema with the same feeling as when I was a little kid who was forced to attend Holy Mass, a ritual whose charm I never discovered, not even when it was in Latin, although I acknowledge the charm of that dead language. Of course, it allowed you to be alone with your thoughts, most of them sinful, as long as you kept track of when you had to kneel, sit, stand up, follow the order of things. You did have to avoid falling asleep and shocking other members of the congregation with your snores. And, of course, you promptly forgot what had happened in there as soon as you walked out of the church. If that boring performance never varied, the movies that bore me today may address all kinds of arguments and with multiple expressive forms, yet the detachment I feel will remain staunchly the same.

Therefore, in these not very healthy times for cinema, you are extremely happy when you come across a film that is not a masterpiece nor does it try to be, but which makes you feel good about the story it has to tell, and makes you walk out of the movie theater in a good mood, ensuring that you will remember with affection and tenderness the story you’ve been told, the uniqueness of the characters, certain dialogues and situations.

Leonie Benesch in 'The Teachers' Lounge.'
Leonie Benesch in 'The Teachers' Lounge.'

Unfortunately, I was late watching The Holdovers and I did not have the opportunity to write about it, even though it is one of the best times I have spent lately in a screening room, and I smile every time it comes to my memory. It is a bittersweet tale about people who are difficult due to their character or to their circumstances (the devastated Black cook whose son has died is unforgettable) and who learn to care for each other during the lonely Christmas that they are forced to share in a deserted elite school.

Alexander Payne’s cinema is always credible. It combines grace and tenderness, sensitivity (not sentimentality) and comedy. And it is always a pleasure to watch Paul Giamatti, an eminent actor with a broad range who hides behind the appearance of a very ordinary, almost nondescript man. He was sitting next to me for a long time at an airport and I didn’t even realize who he was until he walked away. An anonymous being, an exceptional performer. Please excuse such a long digression. But if writing endlessly about The Holdovers would be a pleasure, I have few things to say about The Teachers’ Lounge, the German movie that is up for an Oscar for best international feature film. I watched it with indifference and it’s hard for me to remember anything about its plot just a few days later.

I had heard several people speak enthusiastically about it. And according to Hollywood, it is among the most select works that has been filmed this year. In other words, the problem may not be with The Teachers’ Lounge, but with my lack of concentration on what it has to say and the way it is told. It takes place inside a school, but is more concerned with achieving suspense than with pedagogy. And it aims to be complex in the treatment of the characters. It is not clear who is guilty or innocent, including the teachers, the students and the mother of one of the latter. It aims to be disturbing, realistic, various things at the same time. It triggers no feelings of rejection. Yet I am not drawn into an intrigue that is intended to be complex. I just don’t care.

'The Teachers' Lounge'

Director: Ilker Çatak.

Cast: Leonie Benesch, Leonard Stettnisch, Eva Löbao, Michael Klammer, Anne-Kathrin Gummich.

Genre: Drama. Germany, 2023.

Runtime: 98 minutes.

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