The students in Dieter Bachmann’s class sometimes get bored. They are in sixth grade, so this is to be expected, although there is a high probability that these particular teenagers, are observed by the filmmaker. Maria Speth During the 2016-17 school year, children were less bored than most of their peers, thanks to a dynamic and unique teacher.
What is certain is that, even if it’s over three and a half hours, the documentary Speth shot from her time in the classroom is the opposite of boring.
Thanks to its length, the elegance of its editing, and the warmth of its curiosity, “Mr. Bachmann” and his class might remind you of a film about Frederick Wiseman. The comparison only goes so far. Wiseman tends to be interested in how collective and individual structures – neighborhoods, organizations, institutions – illuminate an individual’s personality and relationships. Speth’s attention moved in the opposite direction.
Her film begins with a teacher, whose patience and charisma captivated the children and captivated the audience. Gradually, a group portrait emerges, which is also a particularly detailed and intricate picture of a town and a country. And more: a close-knit, humane epic.
The town is Stadtallendorf, Germany, about an hour north of Frankfurt. A rural village for most of its history, it was industrialized by the Nazis, who built weapons factories and forced labor camps. After World War II, “guest workers”, mainly from Turkey, were employed for metalworking workshops and other factories. (You’ll learn this information and more during field trips and in class discussions.)
Bachmann’s students are mainly the children of immigrants – from Bulgaria, Morocco and Azerbaijan, among other countries. Their German language proficiency varies, as does their academic outlook. Part of Bachmann’s job is to decide which high school is right for each student, a task he undertakes with clarity, compassion, and some reluctance.
A former sculptor and sociology student in his 60s, often wearing a knit cap and hooded cardigan, Bachmann is aware of the tension between countercultural impulses and bureaucratic duties. mine. He administers tests and gives grades, but also has musical instruments and art supplies ready for study sessions and creative projects. While his anarchic personality is partly what makes him a benevolent government figure, you wouldn’t say he’s soft or tolerant of his students. Instead, he is honest with them, seeing them not as friends or colleagues but as people whose right to respect and dignity is absolute.
They test and tease him and can be unconsidered or cruel to each other. After all, they are children. A few get special attention, almost surpassing their teachers, and contribute to the emotional richness of the film. We don’t learn much about their lives outside of school (or about Bachmann’s), but each is a universe of sensations and possibilities, alive and vulnerable.
And lucky to have crossed paths with Bachmann. The film ends with his retirement after 17 years of teaching, a bittersweet moment that Speth observes with delicacy and lightness. This is not a heroic film about teachers about idealism in the face of adversity. It is a recognition of hard work and the wonder of simple politeness.
Mr. Bachmann and His Classroom
Not rated. In German, with subtitles. Running time: 3 hours 37 minutes. Watch on Mubi.
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/20/movies/mr-bachmann-and-his-class-review.html ‘Grandfather. Bachmann Review and His Class: Learning from the Best