SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL 2013
By Don Simpson | January 25, 2013
Director: Hannah Fidell
Writer: Hannah Fidell
Starring: Lindsay Burdge, Will Brittain, Jennifer Prediger, Julie Dell Phillips, Jonny Mars, Chris Doubek
Diana (Lindsay Burdge) is a high school teacher who is clandestinely carrying out an affair with one of her students, Eric (Will Brittain). The two of them rarely converse, except for whenever they are coordinating their next meet up. Their relationship seems to be purely sexual and mutually consensual: an attractive teacher enjoys the energy and stamina of a teenage boy, while a teenage boy enjoys the maturity and experience of a teacher who is probably the subject of many of his classmates’ sexual fantasies.
Fully understanding the risks of having an affair with a student, Diana continues to do so as means of shirking her adult responsibilities. She has become purposefully estranged from her brother (Jonny Mars) in order to avoid having to take care of their sick mother. Diana’s relationship with Eric is a way for her to latch onto immaturity and youth. Despite her authoritative position at work, Diana enjoys playing a submissive role with Eric, dutifully obeying his commands like a well-trained pet.
Writer-director Hannah Fidell’s A Teacher maintains an extremely high level of suspense as Diana takes bigger and bigger chances in order to be with Eric. Brian McOmber’s masterfully atonal and percussive score escalates the film’s tension with its disturbing alternation between droning and piercing sounds; and it is not long before we realize that McOmber is forcing us inside of Diana’s crazed head-space. Andrew Droz Palermo’s cinematography is equally unnerving as it places us directly within the personal space of the characters. By always placing Diana within or nearby the camera’s frame, we experience the world of A Teacher from her intimate perspective. As Diana’s perception of reality becomes increasingly skewed and confined, so does our view of the on-screen events.
Fidell’s film commendably avoids explaining anything. Beginning and ending in medias res, we never truly grasp Diana and Eric’s motivations; and by honing in on the carnal desires of their present, Fidell cleverly negates the significance of Diana and Eric’s past and future.
Lindsay Burdge proves herself to truly be a force to be reckoned with in this breakout performance. Not to discredit Will Brittain’s impressive performance, but the effectiveness of A Teacher rests heavily upon the shoulders of Burdge. With the aforementioned assistance of the cinematography and score, Burdge utilizes her eyes and body movements to reveal Diana’s vulnerability, naivete and desperation. We may have seen stories like Diana’s before, but Fidell and Burdge present Diana from a uniquely feminine perspective. Diana is never a monstrous sexual predator, she is just someone who is just looking for love in a socially unacceptable place.
(Check out our video interview with Hannah Fidell, Lindsay Burdge and Will Brittain.)