Wednesday, May 7, 2014

A Teacher (2013): Ambiguous Morality...

A Teacher (2013)
dir: Hannah Fidell

There's something to be said for having sympathy for the devil. What if the devil isn't really a devil at all, but just an emotionally distraught person in a hard time? That's the question Hannah Fidell asks in her emotionally bereft A Teacher.

A Teacher follows the course of a female teacher/male high school student sexual affair. Diana Watts is a needy single teacher who is going through a rough time of some sort and has emotionally disconnected herself from her friends, her family, and her strife. Instead, she focuses all of her emotional output on Eric Tull, a senior in high school who simply found an older woman who is voracious in her sexual appetites and is willing to play the boyfriend role to get a bit of action.

Fidell skips over the beginning of the affair, and we begin with the affair in full action. Then they go through a couple close calls and emotional whatevers. Finally, the whole thing breaks down, but Diana isn't done yet and can't leave it alone. Which is her own downfall.

Fidell is able to communicate the loneliness of Diana and how distraught she's getting, but Fidell doesn't give any specific reasons. Instead, she's just saying that Diana felt lonely and was getting an emotional connection with Eric, despite herself, her age, and her position.

The result is almost blank canvas on which the audience can thrust their own opinions. Is the point of the movie to exonerate Diana because of her need for human emotion? Or, is it to eviscerate her for her stupidity? Is this a case of oversimplification saying that women are emotionally out of control when it comes to sex? Or, is it saying that everybody is human?

Fidell doesn't necessarily pass judgement on Diana, ending the film with the affair being caught by the school and family. But, what she also doesn't do is make Diana out to be a predator. Even when Diana is being desperate, she's not necessarily preying on Eric, so much as acting out of her own desperation. A Teacher almost makes Diana out to be the victim here.

Which led me to wonder, constantly, as I was watching the film, "What would this movie be like if somebody were to do a shot for shot remake with a male teacher and a female student?" I'm talking keep the dialogue the same, the actions, shots, music...all of it exactly the same. Would we buy it? Would we be thrusting our opinions of predator on the guy instead of possibly indulging in the Harlequin-esque romance that turns into a dimestore novel?

This thought exercise is never ever addressed in A Teacher, which makes me wonder if A Teacher was merely a thought exercise of a woman who had read articles and opinions that chastised adult teachers for having affairs with their almost-adult students (an increasingly common occurance). It's fleetingly intriguing, but, even at a short 75 minutes, the lack of judgement or meat in the film makes it overlong. It's like a 2nd and 3rd act in a 5 act play that should, itself, total 75 minutes.

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