In The Teachers’ Lounge, Carla (Leonie Benesch) is a young middle school teacher who’s fresh out of college. She is popular with her students and adores the opportunity to mold young minds. However, when a school thief creates suspicion amongst the students and staff, Carle decides to take matters into her own hands. After recording a theft on her laptop, she approaches school secretary Friederike, believing her to be the culprit. But word quickly gets out about Carla’s accusation and student gossip begins to become reality, causing problems for the entire school staff.
Anchored by a strong performance by Benesch, The Teachers’ Lounge is one of the most tightly-written and intense films at TIFF this year. Directed by Ilker Catak, What’s most terrifying about Lounge is how authentic it feels. Although set in the simplest of environments, every moment feels pregnant with tension. This is a film that begins with a simple accusation of a school attempting to maintain law and order but quickly spirals into something far more dangerous.
Interestingly, Lounge keeps the vast majority of its action within the walls of the school itself. This isn’t a film that wants to delve too deeply into the private lives of its staff and students. Teachers are viewed as professionals and students and parents are simply people attempting to keep their lives together. In doing so, Lounge leans into Carla’s belief that these are ‘school matters’ that can be dealt with properly. While troubling, class disruptions and thefts amongst the faculty seem like relatively small matters that need not escalate.
After all, as Carla affirms, “what happens in the teachers’ lounge stays in the teachers’ lounge.”
Carla insists that she wants to get to the truth but Lounge suggests that that’s more difficult than one might assume. As bitterness and embarrassment warp perspectives, small moments are blown entirely out of proportion and the truth becomes buried. Fraught with innuendo and accusations, this is one Lounge that never allows the viewer to get too comfortable.
The Teachers’ Lounge is now playing at TIFF ’23. For more information, click here.