When one of her students is suspected of theft, teacher Carla Nowak (Leonie BeneschThe Crown, Babylon Berlin) decides to get to the bottom of the matter. Caught between her ideals and the school system, the consequences of her actions threaten to break her.

With Das Lehrerzimmer, Ilker Çatak directs his most accessible film, that is also easily the best of his career. Together with co-writer Johannes Duncker, they’ve managed to create a menacing atmosphere within a location otherwise synonym to safety. Without going to deep into the plot, which quickly goes from bad to worst case scenario when it comes to education and the influence teachers, parents and students have on each other, the film does something I’ve rarely seen done before and turn this seemingly dramatic event into psychological warfare.

In the middle of this mind boggling scenario, Leonie Benesch delivers a striking performance of a woman that’ll do anything it takes to stay true to her beliefs as a teacher. There’s so much dialogue, but even when she’s not talking, her face says so much more than words can describe. The student caught in the middle of accusations that go beyond what’s right or wrong, is played by Leonard Stettnisch, who certainly has a bright future ahead of him.

The sense of solitude in the middle of a school, surrounded by peers and teenagers, is a feeling Ilker Çatak perfectly brings across with his unique vision, elevated by a well chosen score and often claustrophobic cinematography. The harsh mental games children unknowingly play with one another, and in the meantime pushing boundaries with mentors, makes for an entertaining but nail-biting viewing experience.

Das Lehrerzimmer is the first perfect film of 2023.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Reviewed online (screener provided by publicist), February 25, 2023. Running time: 95 min.

PRODUCTION: An Alamode Film release of an if… Productions production.

CREW: Director: Ilker Çatak. Writers: Johannes Duncker & Ilker Çatak. Editing: Gesa Jäger. Music: Marvin Miller.

CAST: Leonie Benesch, Leonard Stettnisch, Eva Löbau, Michael Klammer, Anne-Kathrin Gummich, Kathrin Wehlisch, Sarah Bauerett, Rafael Stachowiak, Uygar Tamer & Özgür Karadeniz.

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