KINDERGARTEN TEACHER: One of 2015’s Best Foreign Films

The_Kindergarten_Teacher_4Israeli Film (subtitled)

One of the most original–and dramatically intense–Israeli films in years, Nadav Lapid’s The Kindergarten Teacher is a tough expose, a tale of a female teacher who gets fanatically obsessed with one of her children who shows special gifts for poetry.

 

A major talent to watch, Lapid had made an auspicious debut in 2011 with Policeman, which played at the New York Film Fest but never got legit theatrical distribution.

World premiering at the 2014 Cannes Film Fest, The Kindergarten Teacher played in the Un Certain Regard series to good critical response.

The_Kindergarten_Teacher_6The story begins quietly by introducing the two central figures of a drama that gets increasingly disturbing and provocative in the kids of question that it raises about teaching, education, detecting and then cultivating genius, and also the price (and costs) involved in these processes.

Lapid should be commended for constructing a taut narrative that, in many ways, unfolds as a psychological thriller.

A poetry-loving teacher discovers that one of her young pupils is a literary prodigy, and takes extreme steps to cultivate his genius and protect his gift from an indifferent world.

The_Kindergarten_Teacher_5The title character, an intense, slightly troubled middle-aged woman, gets excited one young student, who composes beautiful poetry. Gradually her admirable passion turns into a dangerous obsession, bordering on madness in what she perceives as her “holy” quest to convince the world of his genius.

The boy’s talent is so impressive that at times he too seems possessed, which may explain why the film merits the label of a psychological horror thriller, especially in its last reel.

The_Kindergarten_Teacher_1Lapid goes beyond the walls of the confined classroom: The film vacillates between a lament for the devaluation of poetry (literature, philosophy, and high culture in general) and a scorching critique of a relatively young society, which has all too quickly become greedy and materialistic in its general values and individual pursuits.

The film touched a chord as I have been a professor for over three decades, and though I had never taught such young pupils, I could relate to some of the film’s more general themes.

Running time: 114 Minutes