Monday, December 21, 2015

Movie with Abe: The Fencer

The Fencer
Directed by Klaus Härö
Not Yet Released

The aftermath of any war, especially one in which nations have been conquered, leaves many people stranded in incomprehensible positions and looked at in a much different manner. War heroes might now be enemies of the state, but often things are not so clear cut, and there is plenty of ambiguity to be found in terms of roles and what behaviors and allegiances are demonized. Going on the run is an obvious path for many, though getting caught is all the more likely if those keeping a low profile can’t resist returning to the passions they so loved in their former lives. Such is the case with the protagonist of the Golden Globe-nominated film “The Fencer.”

After World War II, the Soviet Union dominated a large part of Europe and villainized the Nazi regime while emphasizing Communist values and sentiments. Endel (Märt Avandi) is on the run from the secret police, and his journey brings him to a school in a small village in Estonia. One of Endel’s primary responsibilities is managing and running the sports club, and his own past experience leads him to spotlight one sport in particular: fencing. As his students take interest in this extracurricular offering, the administration also takes notice and does its best to suppress this new form of expression, leading closer and closer to Endel’s true identity being discovered.

There are serious undertones to this film and to the kind of society in which Endel and the children with whom he bonds despite his repeated claims that he has no patience or talent with children exist. Yet it is not quite as stark or dramatic as other such stories of persecution and art, told with a focused perspective but not a dark or grim one. The stoic enthusiasm that comes with Endel practicing his passion and passing on his love for a stylized sport to a new generation is appealing, and that makes Finland’s Oscar submission for Best Foreign Film an enjoyable crowdpleaser. It may not have the resounding impact that other international entries have, but it serves as another reliable instance of Nordic filmmaking that has sent over a number of strong, creative films over the past few years. This coproduction of Finland, Estonia, and Germany is a great case of international collaboration in bringing to cinema a story of a shared history.


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