The Fencer | Chicago Reader

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93 minutes · 2015

An elite Estonian fencer (Märt Avandi), hiding from Stalin's secret police because of his forced service in the German army during World War II, finds safe haven working as a teacher in a remote Estonian village, but his rapport with the students in his fencing club arouses the jealousy of the school's principal and jeopardizes his safety. Based on the life of Endel Nelis, this 2015 Finnish biopic is an affecting portrait of a decent man who risks his life to uphold a bond of trust with his students. Though squarely in the tradition of Dead Poets Society and The Bad News Bears, the film offers higher stakes and, consequently, a bigger payoff. Director Klaus Härö elicits fine performances all around, especially from his child actors, and Tuomo Hutri's cinematography is gorgeous. In Estonian and Russian with subtitles.

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