The story takes place in Communist Bratislava in 1983. Maria Drazdechova is the new teacher at a suburban school. At first she seems like a good soul. But she then makes the students uneasy as she calls on each one and asks what their parents do for a living. As each student stands and provides this information, Maria jots all this down in her notebook. She uses this information to extract services and favors from the parents. If they refuse, Maria gives their kids bad marks and bullies them. Maria asks one parent, who has a job at the airport, to illegally smuggle a box of cakes to her sister in Moscow. Another parent, good at fixing things, is asked to repair her broken washing machine. Both parents refuse so Maria takes it out on their kids. When the daughter of the airport employee attempts suicide, the school head calls a meeting of all the parents to discuss dismissing Maria. The meeting becomes hostile as most of the parents (some who benefited by helping Maria) argue to retain her. Only three parents, citing the harm Maria has done to their kids, want her out. To complicate matters, the school head is afraid to rock the boat as Maria is chairperson of the school Communist Party. It would be wrong to reveal the upshot of all this. It’s not only about what happens to the abusive Maria but also about the political upheaval taking place in this Communist country.
Why Stream This Film?
- Rotten Tomatoes Score (Critics Consensus) 91% 91%
- Metacritic Score 77% 77%
- Karlovy Vary International Film Festival: Best Actress- Zuzana Maurery
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The film’s strength, in fact, is that it functions beautifully on parallel levels. Like the remarkable films Eastern European countries turned out regularly during the Soviet era, it marries a character-driven story with social concerns, in this case a deft parable about the kind of corrupt privileged society nominally egalitarian Socialism created.
THE TEACHER is a foray into Slovak-language filmmaking by the industrious Czech director Jan Hrebejk and, for this occasion, he and his regular screenwriter, Petr Jarchovsky, have chosen a premise that sets up a dark satire about governance and human nature.
The prolific Czech director/writer duo Jan Hrebejk and Petr Jarchovsky return to top form with this compelling dramedy. Zuzana Maurery tears into the part of a lifetime as a terrifying instructor who heads the local Communist party and uses her pupils to manipulate their parents for her own personal benefit.
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