The Lesson – Film Review by Frank L
Directed by Kristina Grozeva and Petar Valchanov
Writers: Kristina Grozeva, Petar Valchanov
Stars: Margita Gosheva, Ivan Barnev, Ivan Savov
The title of this film evokes the world of the school. A classroom is where this tense film begins and in the same classroom it eventually ends too. In a provincial town in Bulgaria, English is being taught to a group of young teenagers by Nadezhda (Margita Gosheva). Chalk and a blackboard are in use; at the beginning there is a blank screen the only sound to be heard in the cinema is the scratch of the chalk on the blackboard. Eventually an image appears. There has been a theft from a schoolbag bag in the class and Nadezhda asks the miscreant to own up. No one does. Throughout Nadezhda acts in a deliberate considered manner. When she arrives home from school she is greeted by bailiffs who are taking the first steps in repossessing her home. She cannot understand why as she has been paying the mortgage. She has been giving the money to her feckless husband to pay the mortgage. He of course has not been giving the money to the bank. She is no longer “considered” when she speaks to him. She faces a race against time to try to raise the money to forestall the auction of her home which will take place shortly. Having got nowhere with the bank, not helped by the useless husband’s unhelpful intervention, she tries a business man who owes her money for translation work and her father who lives with a brassy new girlfriend his wife having died. All to no avail for different reasons. Then she tries a dodgy money lender.
She now finds herself cornered in a way she never could have envisaged. She is still teaching and determined to find out who stole the money. The vice of the moneylender tightens as she cannot make the repayment to him. She is in a dilemma and there is not going to be a way out for her unless she compromises on some of her principles. She is in extremis.
After the banking collapse in 2008, there must be many people facing the sort of choices that Nadezhda faces. Therefore her dilemma has a universal setting. The controlled, undramatic but remorseless manner in which the story unfolds heightens the tension. Each incident as she strives to overcome the next obstacle is finely balanced. The suspense is all encompassing.
The performance of Marghita Gosheva is finely wrought. It is a subtle piece of acting. Apparently some of the smaller parts are played by locals from the town where it was made. Their performances are seamlessly woven into this taut film. The Lesson is a morality tale which at all times grips with suspense as it reveals the unenviable choices which Nadezhda is forced to make.