The Teacher

A comedy of political shenanigans in a classroom behind the Iron Curtain.

Not to be confused with the recent The Student or the upcoming School Life, Jan Hrebejk’s The Teacher is about how life at a school changes for the students and their parents when a new teacher arrives. On her first day teaching school in early-1980s Bratislava, Mária Drazdechová (Zuzana Mauréry) has each student stand and explain what their parents do for a living. Also being a high-ranking official in the local Communist party, Mária uses this information to curry favors and errands from the parents, some small (grocery shopping) and some major (smuggling a cake into the Soviet Union).

Most of this is revealed in flashback, using a meeting of the parents with school officials some months later as a 12 Angry Men-style framing device as they debate what they can do about Mária’s abuse of power, if anything. The Teacher is a sly goof on the inspirational-teacher genre — the most recent being the feel-good The Fencer, also about how a new instructor’s controversial political affiliations upends a community — complete with closing text revealing what various students went on do with their lives. And befitting a film set in the Eastern Bloc, you will not see more consistently horrible wallpaper onscreen this year. Ye gods, maybe interior decorating is why Communism fell.

The Teacher
Not rated.
Opens Friday at the Roxie Theater.

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