Monday, August 21, 2017

The Teacher

I was a bit confused at the beginning of this movie, as we switched between two rooms, one full of kids and the other with a growing assembly of adults. It turns out that the adults were having a meeting of the parents, responding to a complaint about the teacher of the kids in the other room. This is Soviet era Bratislavia and the teacher, Ms Drazděchová, is the local Party Chairwoman.
She starts off kindly, asking each kid their name and what their parents do - but given the time, having these details written down in a little black book sends a message. Her purposes are more benign, however: she's a single woman in a new town who could use a little help. So the parents are called on to volunteer whatever it is they're good at, and many do and are given hints on what their child should study.

We're not really shown what its like to be in the co-operative families: two families do not play ball. Danka is a bright kid yet does not prosper at this kid. Her dad works at the airport yet fails to deliver when the teacher wants some cakes (made by another parent) taken to Moscow. Maybe she is committing too much to her athletics? After all, with her parents assistance, when she is asked to engage in simple Russian conversation, her answers are ridiculous. Maybe this is deliberate misinformation? Her dad has faith, however, and leads the charge with the complaints against the teacher. The fact she tries to gas herself in the family oven might have helped.
The Binder family join in: their boy, however, might not be all that. His dad is a bit of a bully and starts out thrashing his boy for not doing well at school but when he gets hold of the truth, his focus switches to the teacher.

After a while. the focus of the movie switches to the meeting - and how likely is it that those who benefit from the teacher's way of doing things are going to complain? Instead, they attack those who do - one fellow goes so far as to threaten another, who responds by wanting to know how to complain. This is Littmann, who is already suffering - it isn't made all that clear, but I think his wife defected, and he loses his job as an astrophysics professor to become a window cleaner. He's also reputed to be having an affair with the teacher: she might even think he is, but its not likely.
But still, its about 3 or 4 against 30 - 40. There's an odd moment, when the Deputy Head Teacher reveals some truths of the teacher's methods: the average marks for her class in national exams are dire, well below national averages - everyone just walks out, and the Head Teacher has a quiet drink of commiseration with her Deputy. But is that parents we see, coming in individually to sign a complaint. Even if they succeed, won't her connections mean she'll just be moved on?



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