A disturbing story of everyday evil

A look at The Teacher (M)

TeacherIt’s 1983 in Slovakian capital Bratislava and a middle-school class is awaiting the arrival of a new teacher to start the academic year.

In comes Marie Drazdechova (Zuzana Maurery) and during the opening lesson for the year she not only notes down every student’s name but also what work each parent does.

Why on earth would Comrade Drazdechova need to know what the Mums and Dads do?

Well she’s a very clever and extremely manipulative person. She exploits her students’ parents for her own gain.

If a mother cuts her hair she’ll ensure the student gets good grades or if a father fixes her washing machine he’ll be told what specific texts will be tested.

“Get her to concentrate on pages 118 to 132,” she tells one coerced parent.

It’s really a sort of blackmail as one father picks up her groceries while another, a taxi driver, runs her around to her appointments.

Now Comrade Drazdechova has high connections within the ruling Communist party – remember it’s the early eighties – and outranks the school principal and her vice-principal.

Everyone has to be a bit careful.

Accountant Marek Kucera (Csongor Kassai) works at the airport but has no connection with the flight crews or even the ground staff.

So when he’s directed by Comrade Drazdechova to smuggle a cake out of Bratislava to the teacher’s sister in Moscow what is he to do?

It’s illegal to do that so Mr Kucera hesitates to approach pilots marching to their aircraft. Then Kucera almost makes an entreaty to some approaching air hostesses but loses his nerve at the last moment.

One of the movie’s best scenes is to see the frazzled accountant opening the box wherein lies the cake, baked by his wife, and scoffing it down in a secluded passenger seating area.

We can feel sympathy for the put-upon accountant but the saddest person for my money is single parent Mr Littman (Peter Bebjak).

Formerly an astrophysicist and a university professor his employment by 1983 is as a window cleaner.

His wife, even more brilliant than Mr Littman, escaped to the West – we think Sweden – so the Littman’s home phone is tapped by Communist agents.

Comrade Drazdechova fancies the sad sole parent, an attraction which worries and disturbs the window cleaner’s very clever son.

Matters come to a head when accountant Kucera’s daughter Danka, a bright student harassed in class by Ms. Drazdechova, attempts to commit suicide at home.

Her mother arrives just in time to pull Danka’s head away from the oven and switch off the gas.

The principal calls a meeting of parents to try and resolve the situation. It leads to a couple of fathers pleading with the others to sign a petition to have Comrade Drazdechova moved out of their school.

That’s the central focus at the end of this moving film. Will the parents stand up for what they believe and go against Ms. Drazdechova – remembering her high connections – or will they just let things lie and do nothing.



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