“The Teachers’ Lounge” Movie Review, Live Streaming & Download

the teachers lounge 2023

It’s not easy to make an intense thriller about things that could actually happen. But when one appears, it’s glorious. 

Ilker Çatak’s “The Teacher’s Lounge” is glorious. It’s probably the best thriller of this type since “Uncut Gems,” another movie where just watching the characters making bad decisions was so nerve-wracking that it made you want to crawl under your seat. I don’t know if it quite earns the somewhat muted, art cinema-styled, “It’s up to you to decide what happens next” ending that it ultimately gives us; but that’s a tiny fraction of the movie’s compact running time, which otherwise puts us in the headspace of a young teacher at a German secondary school where an outbreak of stealing has made everyone paranoid and edgy, and leads seemingly everyone to make choices they’re going to regret later, if they have a shred of decency (and some of them probably don’t).

Leonie Benesch (of “The Crown”) plays Carla Nowak, a Polish emigre teaching English and physical education. She’s an idealist about education and the obligation of citizens to look out for each other. She’s a do-gooder—a bit nosy, but mostly in a constructive way. When one her kids gets hauled out of class to be accused of stealing (due to an anonymous tip about the unusual amount of cash he has in his wallet) Carla has to sit in on a conference with the boy and his parents as they explain that they gave him the money so he could buy a videogame and suggest that it’s racism (they’re Turkish) that put them in this humiliating situation.

It seems like a convincing explanation. Carla believes it. But the event only deepens her feelings of vulnerability, so the next time she’s on break in the teachers’ lounge and has to leave it, she keeps her laptop open with the video camera secretly running. When Carla returns, she finds cash missing from her wallet, and a check of the recording shows somebody taking it while she was out of the room. 

And it’s here that the movie refines its paranoid thriller aesthetic: just as you never saw the lodging of the accusation against the boy, much less whether he stole cash from somebody else, you also don’t really see who stole Carla’s money, just one sleeve of a blouse with a star pattern on it. The same kind of blouse was worn by a staffer working in an office just a few feet away from the teachers’ lounge, and she could have seen Carla leave the lounge because she had a plain view of it through a large plate-glass window. We side with Carla when she identifies this woman as the thief because honestly, what are the odds that two women in a not-large school wore the same distinctive blouse that day? 

But as the film goes on and the complications pile up, we start to doubt our certainty, as does Carla, who quickly starts to wish that she’d kept her mouth shut, about the stealing and pretty much everything else. The staffer that she accused has a boy in her class, and the boy is understandably distraught and angry when his mother is suspended pending an investigation. It appears that he then orchestrates a campaign to defame her in the eyes of his classmates in her parents; I write “appears” because even though the boy specifically warns Carla to apologize to his mother or suffer consequences, we aren’t privy to what, if anything, he actually did to make good on this promise. Throughout, Çatak gives us a lot of closeups of various characters that make us think, “That person is lying” or “That person is a thief” or simply “That person is again Carla,” but the movie is so firmly rooted in Carla’s point-of-view that we doubt our own assessments as often as she does. (As it turns out, Carla put herself in career jeopardy just by making the recording: apparently there’s a law or rule against unauthorized personal surveillance on the property, and she broke it.)

“The Teacher’s Lounge” goes fuzzy on certain details, and you can’t be sure if it’s because of inattention or because getting into them might’ve made it harder to tell this particular story. To wit: does the school have its own surveillance cameras? If not, why not? If so, how come nobody’s looked at the recordings? (Texting and Internet message boards figure into the plot, however.) Perhaps the original idea for the story was set in the recent past, when every move we made wasn’t watched and cataloged? It’s probably best to think of the film as a parable of sorts, one where an everyday institution is presented realistically yet still stands in for something bigger, like the jury room in “Twelve Angry Men,” the island in “Lord of the Flies,” or the ship in a tale about a mutiny. The film handles national and racial resentment as subtly as it handles everything else; it’s definitely a factor in everything that happens (Carla, being Polish, comes in for a bit of “other-ization” herself). But we aren’t sure about the specifics because so much happens out of our (and Carla’s) sight.

You know when you’re having one of those days or weeks where something bad happens, and your response to it somehow makes it worse, and your worse response causes an escalation that makes everything worse still, and it just keeps going and going, and you start to feel as if you’re digging yourself deeper and deeper into a hole? That’s “The Teacher’s Lounge.” Some of you are going to read that and think, “Thanks for the warning, and there’s no way I am going to ever watch this,” while others will plan on seeing it as soon as possible. It all depends on your sense of when tension starts to get so personal that it becomes unpleasant. 

Regardless, you’ll come away knowing that you’ve seen a proper movie, with its own theme and aesthetic and personality, and not just another piece of flavorless “content.” Çatak and co-writer Johannes Duncker have tapped into a largely unexplored subcategory of the thriller, one with unlimited potential to illuminate everyday life.


The Teachers’ Lounge movie poster

The Teachers’ Lounge (2023)

98 minutes


Leonie Beneschas Carla Nowak

Leonard Stettnischas Oskar

Eva Löbauas Friederike Kuhn

Michael Klammeras Thomas Liebenwerda

Rafael Stachowiakas Milosz Dudek

Sarah Bauerettas Vanessa König

Kathrin Wehlischas Lore Semnik

Anne-Kathrin Gummichas Dr. Bettina Böhm


  • İlker Çatak


  • İlker Çatak
  • Johannes Duncker

Director of Photography

  • Judith Kaufmann


  • Gesa Jäger

Original Music Composer

  • Marvin Miller

“The Teachers’ Lounge” Movie Review, Live Streaming & Download Movie Review, Live Streaming & Download


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