Slovak-Czech drama centers on a bad news middle school teacher who takes advantage of her students and their parents
When it comes to bad teachers, Cameron Diaz has nothing on Zuzana Mauréry. While the former starred in 2011’s “Bad Teacher” as a classroom instructor who drank on the job and cursed at her students, Mauréry is up to far worse in “The Teacher.”
In this absorbing Slovak-Czech drama, Mauréry plays Maria Drazdechova, a middle school teacher near Bratislava in the early 1980s. On the first day of class, she asks her students an unusual question: what do their parents do for a living? She collects this information and begins asking unusual favors of them, well beyond the expectations of a normal parent-teacher relationship. Those parents’ willingness to help her, say, deliver a cake to a family member in the Soviet Union, is reflected in their child’s marks.
The kids get it bad, too. They’re sent to her apartment to tidy things up, all in the name of good grades. If they don’t oblige, they’re ridiculed and hit with poor scores. The teacher wields a lot of power.
Screenwriter Petr Jarchovský and director Jan Hrebejk frame “The Teacher” by starting near the end and working backwards. They stage a dual pair of dramas, one with the parents deciding how to handle the situation after one student attempts to take her life and another through the eyes of the children and the abuse they suffer at the hands of Drazdechova.
Viewers get to know Drazdechova (Mauréry is magnificent) as well as the parents and the students, and the political and socioeconomic backdrop of the time (the story is set against the final days of communism) provides additional layers to the storytelling. In comparison, Cameron Diaz’s classroom was a cakewalk.
Not rated: Language, adult situations
Running time: 102 minutes
At the DIA