The Teacher (Ucitelka) (NR)

Comedy 102 min. September 15, 2017
By Aaron Hillis
A little power corrupts absolutely in this caustically clever Slovak-language dramedy from the prolific Czech director-writer team of Jan Hrebejk and Petr Jarchovsky (Divided We Fall, Up and Down). Set in 1983 Bratislava, with the Iron Curtain as a tangible onscreen presence, the film stars an impeccably ruthless Zuzana Maurery as a widowed middle-school educator who manipulates her pupils' futures by making inappropriate personal demands of their parents. Those who comply with Ms. Drazdechova's orders (Tidy up her home! Fix her appliances! Smuggle a cake to her sister in Soviet Russia!) are blessed with advance quiz answers and successful students, while those who refuse are blackmailed with failing grades and public embarrassment. Even the frustrated headmistress, fully aware of this deviousness, won't shut it down for fear of Comrade Drazdechova's power as the local Communist Party leader.

Through parallel editing, the classroom also becomes the stage for a secret parents' meeting, in which the decision to sign a petition to remove the teacher forces tense, 12 Angry Men-style deliberations. The setup may be as unsubtle as a metaphoric morality lesson about Europe's not-too-distant past, or perhaps it's politically timeless; it's not a far leap to also think about a certain someone's insane need for backscratching loyalty within the White House.
Jan Hrebejk Zuzana Mauréry, Peter Bebjak, Zuzana Konecná, Csongor Kassai Film Movement

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