Monday, August 28, 2017

Lower education unveiled in Jan Hřebejk/Petr Jarkovský's dark and delicious THE TEACHER

Another first-rate gem from the film-making team of director Jan Hřebejk and writer Petr Jarkovský, who have earlier given us Divided We Fall, Up and Down and Kawasaki's Rose, their newest venture -- THE TEACHER -- is also one of their best. Of course, we say this every time the pair makes a new movie. But, hey: It's true. I can't think of another film-making team that produces such consistently funny black comedies that are simultaneously ridden with examples of sad, weak and oh-so-real humanity. The combo is bracing, to say the least.

This Czech duo, pictured above with Mr. Jarkovský on the left, knows how to create situations so fraught with oddities and ironies that yet seem absolutely believable, and its combination of smart dialog, nimble direction and terrific performances results in movies that are both memorable and hugely entertaining.

So it is again with The Teacher, which tells the tale of a rather special teacher back in 1983, when Czechoslovakia was under the thumb of Communist Russia. One of the consistent surprises of this film-making team is how accessible, understandable and darkly funny it makes life under the Communist behemoth. I suppose that abusive power is pretty much the same all over the world; the degree to which is it used is what varies. Here in the USA we may just be seeing currently the fuller exposure of that particular iceberg.

Our teacher, played with a rich array of acting arsenal attributes by Zuzana Mauréry (above and below) has a fascinating and unfortunately all-too-easily-achieved way of working the system. TrustMovies will not go into details, for these are both original and too much fun to spoil your surprise.

Said to be based on a real situation that the writer and director make seem all the more so, The Teacher tackles the subject of fighting against injustice vs groveling to power, and the parents of the children of whom this teacher is in charge come down, as expected, on both sides of the issue and to varying degrees. What they say and how they say it in order to explain their position makes for much of the movie's exhilarating (if queasy-making) fun.

Bravery under Communism was hard to come by, and even when it reared its head, this might have been for as many wrong reasons as right. The filmmakers understand this, and they also know how to demonstrate it without finger-wagging or hammering it home. The situation, if it divides the parents (above), also brings together a set of students (below) who, under other circumstances, might have almost nothing in common. Here they bond -- in yet more irony!

Defection, education, submission and protest, the movie covers them all -- and more. By the time of its denouement, which takes Czechoslovakia to its post-Communist era, The Teacher unveils its final small-but-telling irony which is, like the film itself, a dark gem.

From Film Movement and running a just-right 103 minutes, the movie has its New York City premiere at Film Forum in New York City this coming Wednesday, August 30. Elsewhere? Well, it opens in Santa Fe at The Screen on Friday, September 8. Click here then scroll down to see futher upcoming playdates across the country.

No comments: