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Director Hannah Fidell got the idea of the movie Teacher while she worked at a restaurant waitress and was attracted to a young patron. She wondered how this would happen to a teacher. We often hear of older men and younger women, but how about the older woman, younger man? In A Teacher, Diana is a teacher at a suburban Texas high school. She has a strain relationship with her family and has few intimate friends. She crosses the lines and begins a sexual affair with a student Eric. In it, she is taken away to reignite the excitement of youthful lust and adapts to the world of quickies, sexting, and fantasy of her young suitor. Besides the ethical dilemma, she is carried away to continue this fantasy to a point of no return. This movie does a good job to show the humanity of Diana who simply craves emotional intimacy that she blocks from the thick wall around her. I saw this film as part of the Atlanta Film Festival.
Coming in at 75 minutes, if it were any shorter it would have been a TV
Pilot, but if it were any longer I would have hated it.
An interesting dive into the mind and emotion of a female teacher who has a sexual relationship with one of her students. Lindsay Burdge, the actress playing the teacher, did an excellent job for most of the movie at being seemingly normal, but obviously mentally unstable. Near the last third of the movie however, she seemed to cross the line of believable and over the top a few too many times for me.
The approach of the movie was interesting in that we start well into their relationship, as the teacher's life starts to unravel. The time span of when the movie took place was relatively short, and the movie focused more on her and her emotions than it did on the relationship, which I really liked.
This is a film in A Teacher that is nudging itself, trying to be set
free from the restraints and the shortcomings of the finished product.
The film trying to break free is a deep, involved character study on a
teacher-student relationship that functions because of deep
conversation and a mutual understanding between parties. The film we
get is an interesting albeit mostly flat examination of an unremarkable
teacher-student affair that strides along with sporadic hardships and
ends in predictable calamity.
Hannah Fidell wanders into mumblecore territory here, as she directors and pens the film about Diana Watts (Lindsay Burdge), a high school English teacher, in her thirties or so, who has been flirting and hanging around with student Eric Tull (Will Brittain). The two hang out frequently - mostly in each others homes so being spotted in public isn't possible - and both enjoy each others company, personality, and intimacy. It doesn't take long, however, for Diana's paranoia to nearly get the best of her, as she tries to keep their relationship closeted, even as Eric begins to turn the other cheek to her at some points.
Immediately, this is a story that needs to be told, and this film ostensibly will humanize and maybe justify a teacher-student relationship. However, Fidell unfortunately keeps things too heavily nuanced to be insightful and too subtle to evoke much commentary or humanity. There isn't much to Diana or Eric, and their relationship seems more existent because it's a taboo and it's not normative. There's no real indicator on why they're together in the first place. We don't see why Eric has captured her eye, as he is just a typical, faceless high school teenager that comes to class everyday, does his work, and is quietly anxious sexually. There's no justification as to why Diana would want to date a student, or Eric in particular, seeing as if someone found out it could irreparably scar her reputation and put her out of a job.
The film I was hoping A Tacher would be featured extensive dialog to develop each character, dialog in the way of both of them talking about why they like each other enough to carry out a dangerous relationship under the noses of classmates and the school administration, and had deeply intimate, satisfying sex. This would be a four star film. The film we have here is one with minimal dialog in the way of characters, a shallow, limited view on why these two would want to be together, and relatively simple sex scenes captured by a grim camera that knows no color scheme other than black or very, very gray.
Having said all this, the film does in fact feature a strong lead performance by Lindsay Burdge, whose teacher character is made a sympathetic character, even with out much develop towards her. We can see that she thinks something of this relationship - whatever that may be - and she would be pained deeply if something wrong were to happen with it. If the film didn't have Burdge at the center, at least trying to provide some sort of clarity the character's motivations in this relationship, this would've been a complete misfire.
A Teacher is a serviceable, but overly-simple look at a subject that needs strong care and attention to be made human. The characters should've been more identifiable, the sex should've been more powerful and shocking considering the age gap, and the drama should've been thicker. The only thing I thought A Teacher was doing, by the end of it, was simply trying to push transgressive boundaries for the sake of doing so; not because it had something genuinely enlightening or strong to say.
Starring: Lindsay Burdge and Will Brittain. Directed by: Hannah Fidell.
A Teacher (2013)
A maddening movie that has some gutsy aspects. But there is so much depending on credibility in the character's motivations, you can't quite ever buy the plot.
Which is this: a high school teacher gets involved with one of her students. I know this happens now and then, often to national headlines, so that much I like. But we want to see the psychology of a teacher who would do that, and it isn't here. What the director and writer (and leading actress, to some extent) give us is a young woman who takes risks and is obsessed with the young man she begins having sex with. Big risks. Risks so absurd (like kissing him in the classroom after the other students have left) that you wonder if the movie makers had information that this was true, or if they were winging it with no good instincts about how people would act in this situation.
Not that it needs to be terribly rational. Obviously here is a case of a teacher losing track of her place in her job, in her life, and of the consequences ahead. The student we believe, just enjoying a good ride with a nutty teacher, somewhat sincere in his liking her but a little baffled by her obsession. I mean he's only a high schooler, and as much as they know a lot about a lot, they don't know about the convolutions of older people's ability to love, and the complications of that.
Anyway, there is a lot offered here and very little achieved. To some extent the last scene of the teacher lying on a borrowed bed sums up all of our feelings. Kind of, oh my god, oh my god. Yeah, of course. But with so much dangling and unexplored, this could have been a powerful, valuable, must see drama.
I have just read some of the above reviews and feel as though they have
no emotional integrity whatsoever. When I watch a movie, I do not want
to be spoon-fed information and told what to think. These are obviously
the kind of films the above reviewers are accustomed to watching which
is a great shame because they are missing out on something more
beautiful and pure. By not being obvious, this film engages the mind of
the viewer to look more closely at the subtext and form a unique
opinion. Life is not black and white; there are many mysteries. A film
that captures a truthful aspect of life is one that I always find
Firstly, 'A Teacher' is one of the few movies I have actually seen where a female character's point of view takes the main focus. A very credible character with many human flaws instantly captivates me as I want to read into her actions and form an opinion based on what I notice about her behaviour. To me, she is an adult who, for some reason, is unable to move past her adolescence. There are a couple of clues in the text of the film that highlight her incapability to face the truth like a grown up- one being her refusing to talk about a serious matter regarding her mother when her brother brings it up in conversation. She is living in a fantasy and the relationship with her student allows her to hold on to this dream world in which she lives. The whole way through the film, you are waiting for the moment when reality finally hits home and this creates a beautiful suspense.
The soundtrack is also very carefully placed and just hits the right moments. As soon as the film begins we are instantly drawn to this woman's state of mind from the unusually unsettling opening music. I think that each song in the movie has been specifically used to enhance the moods felt by this emotionally unstable schoolteacher.
The film begins and ends. It is emotionally engaging and allows us to empathise with the characters as well as reprove them. The unpredictability of the film and the excellent performances held my attention throughout. There is no need to say there was a lack of storyline on screen. Get a heart and a mind and an attention to detail. A story can be told with no words at all. In fact, a thousand words can be portrayed in one simple action. This film has much more substance and desire than a film that needs a heavy script to portray intention. Definitely a thumbs up from me. It has been a while since I've seen a film as good as this.
We don't get to know the characters in this film. Hannah Fidell gives
us no back story and no resolution. If you feel as nervous about the
epidemic of teacher-student sexual abuse as I do, "A Teacher" won't
leave you feeling any better.
"A Teacher" is not the cheap outrage movie I thought it might be. It is not full of raunchy sex. There is no violence to. The director attempted a psychological treatment of the perpetrator. She succeeds, but she doesn't surprise me.
Lindsay Burdge plays Diana Watts, a 30-ish high school English teacher with a lost lamb demeanor and a family crisis she is trying to avoid. Diana is not the Pam Smart sultry seductress with wicked intentions. She girl-next-door attractive, but she is depressed. I empathized. I wanted to help her find her way.
Diana has roommates and friends who ask her out to parties where she has the opportunity to meet guys, but she's so insecure she cannot really connect with her peers. Diana's ex-husband and her brother try to get her attention about issues in the family, but Diana is too confused deal with them.
How did a nice girl like Diana end up with that creep? Hidell leaves it up to us to guess.
Will Brittain plays Eric Tull, a hot high school jock from a rich family. Eric is the dominant one in the relationship. Eric decides he is going to take Diana to his father's ranch. Eric decides when they are going to have sex.
The sex depicted is not explicit, but Hidell makes it plain it is joyless for Diana. Eric is a bonehead. He doesn't read when Diana is feeling sad an anxious. He doesn't care. Eric's job is stud service. He could get any girl in school he wanted. It seems he thinks Diana should be grateful to HIM for a quickie in the parking lot!
Eric comes across as a bit old for high school. This often happens when directors cast 25-year-old hunks to play high school students. However, Hidell does a deft job in show us how Eric is not quite a man yet. Diana isn't able to convey to Eric the high risk of their relationship. Eric is not able to see the situation as an adult and exercise good judgment. He's just an over privileged Texas boy playing with daddy's toys and diddling his English teacher.
I wanted to see something bad happen to Eric. I wanted to see something good happen to Diana. I wanted a comforting answer as to why so many pretty, young teachers have sex with their students. However, Hidell does't just come out and give me what I want.
Apart from awkward camera work and the stop-and-go jumpiness from one seen to the next, Hidell does a good job with what she has. She doesn't try to emulate the Hollywood blockbusters. She doesn't make her actors punch above their weight, which steers the film away from b-movie movie ham.
I felt voyeuristic. It might have been me and my camera following Diana around. The absence of backstory or subplots gave me an undiluted taste of a perilous episode in Diana Watts' life.
The drawback of Hidell's cinema vérité is I found no redemption for Eric. I just hated him. However, Eric is the victim. Not Diana. Diana is the adult. Diana is the one breaking her contract, lying to her employers, and eroding society's trust. Yet, Hidell is telling me I must empathize with Diana, and I do. Perhaps Hidell is saving the tears of Eric for "A Teacher II."
Firstly, ignore these stupid reviews: if your highest idea of film is a
typical brainless Hollywood structure with the inciting incident,
setback, climax and happy ending - as i suspect the reviewers so far
hold - you will be disappointed. And good riddance. The less we have of
this mindless, brainwashed notion that every film should conform to a
120-min clichéd set of min-by-min peaks and troughs, the better.
It's only 75mins instead of 120mins? Boo hoo. It doesn't have a happy ending? Shut up. It doesn't have your stupid clichéd "plot" structure you get in every film? Waaah, waah, waah.
If that's the basis of your criticism, it's not the writers to blame: it's you. You, the viewer, are an idiot.
I experimented with this on Netflix as a wildcard watch, despite the cheap, smutty cover which does it a horrendous disservice. I was genuinely surprised and heartened by what i discovered in it. And you know it's done well when your chest hurts afterwards.
The film is absolutely carried by Lindsay Burdge, who gives an unbelievably sincere, empathetic, moving, and sensitive performance: one of the best i've seen in years for an indie flick. I say that as someone who works in film every day, and who forwarded the piece on to a few people as a classic example of first-class artistry. The supporting cast are perfectly reasonable, although perhaps the male counterpart is slightly implausibly mature - it ultimately countermands the relationship to make it more sympathetic.
The story is essentially of one woman's descent into obsession and madness, laced over a very tense and awkward contrasting ascent of tension and difficulty: it's touch-sensitive stuff, with a strange quality that does very much keep you involved with the heavy air of tension. I suspect the writer was tempted to tone it down; the Shakespearian touch would have done well here: a murder at the end of it, or some vile, terrifying conspiracy to really anchor it down. The sex scenes are erotic, tastefully filmed, and coarsely authentic.
I'd compare the subtlety of it to "Notes on a Scandal" (2006) with Judi Dench: centred around an apparently harmless female lead, who sinks under the weight of her increasing needs and compulsions. If one theme emerges, it's the idea of loneliness: you can *feel* the loneliness of the character; coldly alone in her apartment, emotionally isolated, foolishly childish, and of course, hopelessly naive.
It's not event-driven per se, and that's absolutely fine, no matter what the idiot i-want-bruce- willis-don't-make-me-think hoard says. It's a character-driven piece, and a refreshing internal look at an alternative side where the apparent sexual predator is the fool. We don't find out how it happened, why, or where it concluded, and we don't need to - it's showing us the world from her point of view, which is ambiguous, convoluted, and blinded.
The sad point about a title like this is that the marketing and distribution people clearly dumped it, and it may unjustifiably disappear into the ether. It needs a better cover, maybe an HBO slot, a different sales angle, and a more agreeable pickup team.
If you're one of those idiots who watch something like this and whinge that it's not a usual, familiar Hollywood-style happy-ended turd, please do the rest of the world a favor and just throw yourself off a bridge. Stick to comic book movies and stuff about jaded ex-law enforcement types killing TheTerrorists (TM). You're the reason interesting little pieces like this drop down the list, when they should be moving upwards on it.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Hannah Fidell's directorial feature debut, 'A Teacher', is a disturbing
film that has a brilliant performance from Lindsay Burdge. From the
sulking score, to the long camera shots, this forbidden and illegal
sexual tale spins out of control fast, but has a heavy psychological
tone as we watch our main character descend into a steep downward
spiral of madness and obsession.
Burdge plays Diana, a high school teacher who seems to be a loner outside the classroom, but once in class, she opens up and is very charismatic. We are thrown into the middle of Diana's illicit relationship with one of her students, Eric (Will Brittain). We do not see how it all started, and we see scene after scene of the two having sex in different places whether it be in a car at night, Diana's house when her roommate is out for the night, or at Eric's parent's ranch house near Austin, TX.
The pair seem to have the same feelings for one another, however the only thing we really see is a sexual relationship, though we clearly see that Diana is emotionally stunted and needs to have some gap filled in with this torrid affair. She even allows Eric to take control in the bedroom. soon we see that Eric is her whole life as she becomes very distant from her roommate and colleagues at school and when her brother comes into town, she quickly shuts down and leaves him sitting at the restaurant. It's evident that her affair isn't the first of its kind. When her roommate invites her to a party of people their own age, she wants to leave as soon as she gets there and spends the little time there texting Eric and looking at his pictures. It's become an unhealthy obsession now.
After an exposing photo makes the rounds at school of a freshman girl posing topless, Diana becomes scared and asks Eric to delete all of the photos from his phone that she has sent. Once this happens, she begins to question herself and her actions, but still continues on. When an employee of Eric's ranch house almost catches the two of them in the deed, Diana calls the relationship off, but her unnatural obsession and sickness cannot be controlled, which leads to some very unfavorable moments, making the audience scream out "Nooo."
Fidell's camera-work is impressive and reminded me of Darren Aronofsky's 'The Wrestler' as we see the steady-cam shot from the back of Diana as she walks through the school and on her jogs completely alone. It's very unsettling. Brittain plays the student lover very well as we never see him brag to his friends of his conquest, nor is he at all an annoying teenager or obnoxious. He is actually quite charming, level-headed, and always plays it cool, even when things spiral out of control. And then there is Burdge who does a phenomenal job in her role as she tries to box up her unnatural feelings all the while she seems wears her heart on her sleeve when it comes to her young lover.
What keeps this film from being great is its repetitiveness. It's a slow descent into a psychotic obsession that shows the same thing scene after scene of the two character having sex, only in different locations. If there was a bit more character exploration, then 'A Teacher' would have received an A. But due to its inconsistencies a flaws it receives a C for effort and acting.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I saw this film at Film Fest Ghent (Belgium) 2013. Though announced on
the festival website as a "character study", the first 45 minutes were
nothing but repeats of the same sex-riddled meetings, each time in
different settings and varied locations, but always at places where no
one could see them together. We had to wait for a badly needed turning
event, which came only after 45 minutes, a long overdue moment for the
teacher to start realizing which risks she was taking. She immediately
decided to put their regular meetings on hold, which seemed to be taken
seriously by both for a while. Suddenly, however, she cannot resist the
urge (we thought that only men think about sex many times a day), she
arranges a new secret bed-meeting. For some unclear reason she suddenly
breaks it off halfway, and he leaves the house without much ado.
After only a very short while she rushes after him, parks near his house (where also his parents live), and desperately tries to phone and text him, and finally walks towards his house. It has all the looks of stalking. We see the boy's father interfere, but no actual confrontation. The film ends with her all alone in a motel room, where a voice mail from her school director tells her about a "situation". Apparently, the cat is out of the bag, but this is where the story ends.
All in all, the plot had much more opportunities than the script did use effectively. As it is presented to us now, it offers not that much new about the issue, being rehashed many times before in similar or other settings. I could have inferred all this from the 75 minutes running time, indeed not very much for a "character study". We also have no idea what it is that attracts them to each other, apart from the apparent sex. The audience award ranked this movie a lowly 71th place out of 83.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I agree with the negative posters so far, that this was one of the worst movies I have ever seen. It is 75 minutes, and could have been five minutes. Before the movie, I figured the most interesting part would be learning how the two started to hook up. Well, you have no idea and they are just hooking up from the second scene in the movie. Then, what is up with the scene about her family? Early in the movie there is the short scene with her brother and he mentions that her Mom clearly has some sort of illness that has affected her brain. Diana just gets this terrified look on her face and leaves. She had also mentioned her Mom in the first "hook up" scene, so you figure this will be a second story line. Nope. It is like the writer had that idea and then said, "Nah. Let's just forget about the family part." The rest of the movie is basically the same thing over and over again. With some completely random background music that would be more fitting for a B horror film. Then at the end she laughs, cries, and officially goes crazy. That could have happened in scene 1 and the reason I said it could have been five minutes long. The only reason I gave this a 2 and not a 1 is the Ms. English teacher had a good body and there is slight nudity.
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