The country succeeds in this class
The documentary filmmaker Marie Speth accompanied a teacher and his class for six months. “Mr. Bachmann and his class” is long. He gives hope that everything won’t go wrong. He has now won the jury’s prize at the Berlinale.
HHave you had enough of the German disaster, of debacles and of the constant debates about it? Then come with me to Stadtallendorf. Yes. Stadtallendorf. Not far from the Hessian hinterland, not far from Marburg. In a depression. Not a really nice place, but a very German one.
Been a village. Then the Nazis had 15,000 forced laborers from all over the world build bombs from the surrounding concentration camps. Then the war was over and the iron foundry needed workers and later the confectionery factory too. They came from everywhere. And stayed.
70 percent of the 20,000 inhabitants today have a history of migration. And in Dieter Bachmann’s class you can hear all of them, the stories. By the way, Dieter Bachmann is the guy you have to go to Stadtallendorf for. Because of Dieter Bachmann and his 6b. For four hours. And in a cinema, if it works again in summer.
Dieter Bachmann is a teacher at the Georg Büchner School in Stadtallendorf. Typical school building, you know how it smells and how it smells. You get a bit of a cold when you see him like that. Thanks to Dieter Bachmann, it becomes a warm room. A place where something succeeds.
Marie Speth and her cameraman Reinhold vorneider accompanied Bachmann and his 6b for half a school year. A six-month period that many children are afraid of, because that is where they decide how to proceed and where. In secondary school, secondary school or high school. And the 6b would have every reason to be afraid. The gradient is great. So is the danger of failed educational careers.
Buddy, Prussian educator
Bachmann is a man who has a story on his face. And always a woolen cap on the almost bald head. He’s got T-shirts and hoodies that take getting used to. Anyone who suspects an old sixty-eight in him is not entirely wrong. He’s the paradox of a very buddy, very Prussian educator.
He became a teacher because he needed money. He says sometime over an after-work cigarette. To this day, he mistrusts the school as an institution. He and Penne would never have believed that they could last a long time anyway. He is now in his 60s. The 6b is his last class. Speth’s film tells why Germany has become poorer as a result, and why one becomes a teacher. He doesn’t tell a hero story. A homeland story does.
Bachmann gives those who come to class in the mornings sometimes dead tired and whom he first sends out again when “Good morning, Mr. Bachmann” sounds too silty (just to let them sleep in between classes later, if necessary), a home from Bachmann.
Provides them with a community. A place that very many do not have, where they can arrive at themselves. They (or their parents) come from Bulgaria, Brazil, Morocco, Kazakhstan, Sardinia. A child from Transylvania comes closest to what some call “bio-German”.
But that doesn’t matter. Bachmann doesn’t care. He doesn’t care about grades either. These are snapshots, he says, do not show who or what or how much the children are worth. It is not indifferent to him when children do not care enough or not enough.
Music is made a lot, nothing is given. Bachmann’s method is follow-up, questioning, loving, respectful guidance. He teaches to be for one another. And live it. Speth listens to him. Listen to the children. Do not comment, do not analyze. Elegantly integrates the history of the city. Shows.
In the end, there is Bachmann. The school is out. He suppressed a tear. We would have liked to have been his students.