Set in 1983 in Bratislava, a city then under Communist rule in Czechoslovakia, The Teacher (Ucitelka) is an international, art house, comedy-drama film that gives a bleak portrayal of families living under the regime.
At the beginning of every school year, Mrs Maria Drazdechová(Zuzana Mauréry) asks her high school students to stand and tell her two things — their name and the professions of their parents. With this information the repulsive Mrs Drazdechováblackmails the parents into performing various tasks and chores for her — all without payment, of course — to ensure their children do well at school.
Mrs Drazdechováis a brutally honest and an amusingly conniving character. Recently widowed, she uses this to ‘request’ services of the parents such as free rides from the taxi driver, free haircuts from the hairdresser, or hinting at consequences to another parent if he rejects her flirtation.
It all looks relatively harmless, but her after-school work sessions are stealing kids away from their sports. If they complain, their grades suffer, but the more willing types get extra help with tests and such. Promising gymnast Danka (Tamara Fischer) is singled out for abuse, and Filip (Oliver Oswald) is punished when he defends her.
Most parents go along with this, as she is part of the local Communist apparatchik. However, when three parents refuse to appease the teacher any further, and their children are disadvantaged in exams by Mrs Drazdechová, they complain to the headmistress who calls a meeting of all parents to discuss the teacher’s removal. It’s at this point that the film examines the future of the families and what they must grapple with — dare go against the teacher or stand up for what they believe in no matter the cost.
The Teacher is a very slow and drawn out film, but comes together in the end. Maybe wait for the DVD.
ROK’S RATINGS: 2.5 glasses of bubbly