The Fencer

Being on the run from Stalin is no reason not to inspire kids to play sports.

Klaus Härö’s The Fencer straddles the line between the inspirational sports coach and postwar intrigue genres, and while it isn’t a tournament-winning example of either form, it has a steady stance and hits most of the expected targets. On the run from Stalin’s secret police in the 1950s, a man named Endel (Märt Avandi) takes a job as an athletic teacher at the local school in an Estonian village. A trained fencer, Endel starts a fencing club at the local school, which inspires many moppets, including ballet-eschewing girl Marta (Liisa Koppel) and sullen young boy Jaan (Joonas Koff) to take up the foil.

None of this sits well with the highly Marxist and generally humorless principal (Hendrik Toompere) who doesn’t consider fencing appropriate for the proletariat and who digs up Endel’s past as a conscripted soldier during Germany’s occupation of Estonia, hence Endel being on the run. The publicity materials emphasize Marta, suggesting it’s a story of a young girl who’s inspired to become a fencer in a time and place when that wasn’t a thing (any time and place, really), but The Fencer divides its time amongst all its threads, though Marta’s is inherently more interesting. And if nothing else, The Fencer scores points for replacing the slow clap with the slow vote.

The Fencer
Not rated. Opens Friday at the Opera Plaza Cinema

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