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Storyline (warning: spoilers)
The early 1980s, Czechoslovakia. At the start of a new term at a suburban high school, a seemingly empathetic and kind new teacher, the middle-aged Maria Drazděchová greets her class. She asks them to introduce themselves and share what their parents do for a living, explaining that it’s important to know how their parents might collectively help the group. Soon after, she gradually begins to pressure both students and parents by seeking favours – grocery collection, handyman assistance, lifts and haircuts – and connecting them with special treatment in class and, most significantly, good grades.
Before long Maria’s demands grow more complex and dangerous, so when a serious incident finally draws her unscrupulous behaviour to her colleagues, the principal calls a secret meeting, seeking parents to sign a petition to move “Comrade Drazděchová” on from the school. But her high connections with the Communist Party hang above everyone in the room, and it’s soon evident that standing up for what’s right may be much easier said than done.
The Teacher delivers a timeless and universal story of opportunism, bias and human dignity. Laced with wicked humour and standout performances, this rousing morality tale employs a delicate touch to skewer not only the complications of communism, but the human characteristics that ensure it never quite works out as expected.
Showcasing finely tacky period recreations, some terrific playing (the child actors are fabulous), a scathing takedown of Communism and one joke, as Maria later teaches ethics, The Teacher just for once justifies the familiar cry, “Won’t someone please think of the children?”