A young junior high school teacher faces unexpected repercussions after accusing a co-worker of theft in The Teachers' Lounge. Carla Nowak (Leonie Benesch) is a new teacher at a German junior high, where the faculty is currently investigating a series of thefts from the Teachers' Lounge. After a Muslim student in her class is made a suspect for possibly racist reasons, Carla secretly leaves the webcam on her laptop recording and films somewhere wearing a blouse similar to that being worn by the school secretary Friederike Kuhn (Eva Löbau). After showing the recording to the school's principal Dr. Bettina Böhm (Anne-Kathrin Gummich), Friederike is suspended from her job and both she and her son Oskar (Leonard Stettnisch) personally blame Carla for a false accusation, resulting in rumours being spread across the parents, faculty, and students.
The Teachers' Lounge Synopsis
The Teachers' Lounge is a drama co-written and directed by Ilker Çatak, which stars Leonie Benesch (The White Ribbon) as Polish-born teacher Carla Nowak, a recent college graduate who has just started teaching at this German junior high. The film starts with Carla and other teachers, including Thomas Liebenwerda (Michael Klammer), interviewing student representatives to try and decipher who is responsible for the recent string of thefts in the teachers' lounge, with Carla making sure to use language to ensure that any information given be on a volunteer basis.
After a false accusation leads to a tense parent meeting, Carla decides to take matters into her own hands and secretly film in the lounge. It is only after catching and accusing Friederike Kuhn of the thefts that Carla learns that filming is not the ethical thing to do. However, the damage was already done and rumours began to spread about how this rookie teacher was responsible for the firing of a faculty member of nearly 15 years. At the centre of this is Friederike's son Oskar, who transforms from a bright and promising student in Carla's class to become disruptive and problematic.
My Thoughts on The Teachers' Lounge
The Teachers' Lounge is a very thought-provoking, and anxiety-inducing, film that tackles the age-old adage that no good deed goes unpunished. The personal and professional repercussions that Carla Nowak faces after accusing a fellow faculty member of theft are more frustrating as the film goes on. While the film purposely keeps it vague whether Carla is correct in her accusations, the less-than-ethical fashion she used to collect evidence ends up coming back to haunt her.
What becomes apparent through the film, first through a disastrous parent-teacher meeting crashed by the suspended Friederike Kuhn, and later through a scandalous article written in the school newspaper, is that the repercussions faced by Carla are a somewhat misguided attempt to fight back against what's perceived to be an authority figure abusing their power. This is particularly telling in a scene where Carla has lost the respect of who students, who tell her that they are standing in solidarity. It doesn't help matters that when the thefts were first being investigated, it was the students who were made the initial suspects. The theme of standing up to authority comes to a climax in the film's final scene, which can be open to interpretation.
Working in education is probably one of the most challenging of careers, as teachers find themselves under immense scrutiny by all those around them. While The Teachers' Lounge goes to the extremes in demonstrating this, it ends up being an immensely thought-provoking film.