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School has never been this stressed out.

MovieSchool has never been this stressed out.

The Teachers' Lounge is a film that is meant to discourage people from wanting to teach in elementary schools. Germany has been nominated for this year's Best International Feature Academy Award and director Ilker atak's latest is a moral drama pitched at the register of a thriller, highlighted by a Marvin Miller score. Raising tricky questions about trust, honesty, and manipulation with mounting dread and panic, it boasts some of the nerve-wracking anxiety of Uncut Gems and the keenness of last year's stellar Playground. A new teacher at a school that has been plagued by a series of thefts is named Carla Nowak. To deal with the situation, Nowak and fellow teachers Milosz Dudek and Thomas Liebenwerda meet with the class's student representatives, who don't want to point the finger at anyone. Liebenwerda refused to take no for an answer because he himself has been a victim, so he used coercive methods such as showing the reps a list of students and asking them to nod when his pen lands on the perpetrators. Nowak coughs and convinces Liebenwerda that these adolescents are collaborating willingly. The adults have gotten leverage over these kids and made it easy to convince them to keep this conversation a secret. The administration's subsequent decision to inspect male students' wallet for excessive money is clearly an overstep. Ali is a suspect in the case since his Turkish parents can explain why he is flush with cash. In the aftermath of this uneasy get-together, Nowak lets Liebenwerda and his friends know that she disapproves of this strategy, and that someone had to act to get to the bottom. When Nowak spots two girls sneaking out of the gym to smoke and decides to strike a deal with them, she shows her own preferred approach to bad behavior. The Teachers' Lounge doesn't want to paint Nowak as the only virtue in a nest of vipers. Nowak has her own selfish suspicions, which makes her alienating from her colleagues who have valid concerns about what is happening in their workplace. Nowak has a plan to get to the bottom of the mystery surrounding the theft of change from the teacher's lounge cookie jar. She hides her wallet in her jacket pocket, hangs her coat on her teacher's lounge chair, and sets her laptop to record the crime while she is away. The plan works great, with the thief's foreground sleeve visible in the shot, as they steal some bills. It takes just seconds for Nowak to identify the shirt as belonging to Ms. Kuhn who works at the school's front desk. The confrontation between Nowak and Bhm went poorly as did the sit-down with Bhm. Administration concerns that Nowak violated regulations by secretly videotaping her coworkers are the reason why rumors are swirling. The educational dynamic at Nowak was thrown into disarray when Oskar became upset and rebelled, leaving Nowak with no one to help them. Nowak had a mixture of confidence and alarm as events began to spiral out of control. The Teachers' Lounge is engagedly mires itself in its pressure-cooker environment with Judith Kaufmann's verité-esque handheld cinematography and Miller's fretful orchestral themes. atak and Johannes Duncker's script saddles Nowak with some responsibility for her situation, as she is beset by forces that view her as a cause of this dawning calamity, or at least an impediment to a solution. Nowak is an altruist who is trying to play by the rules, and in the case of Oskar, he is trying to support a young kid who has not asked for the mess in which he finds himself. Her refusal to follow through on what she has started, to hold to her convictions and defend herself, to be wholly candid about her behavior, or to understand that she can't be equally aligned with everyone all at once, shows a holier-than-thou foolishness. The most frustrating aspect of The Teachers' Lounge is Nowak, given that she is the one who caused the controversy and the administration's reluctance to stand by the evidence. atak wants his drama to be about chaos from distrust, duplicity and bad-faith assumptions and conclusions, but it is ultimately dependent on an allegation that, from the first moment to the last, comes across as rather incontrovertibly accurate. The film evokes both the powder-keg stresses of its environment and the ethical quandary of the story that fails to fully figure out how to keep truth.

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