A young fencing instructor evades the secret police in this winning sports drama
This sweetly told, ’50s-set Estonian drama is essentially ‘School of Rock’ with swords instead of guitars. It stars Märt Avandi (picture a young Jeremy Corbyn) as Endel, a fencer who takes a job as a PE teacher at a primary school in a poor, far-flung corner of Estonia in an effort to evade the Russian police.
The story follows a well-worn arc: unsure at first, the kids become keen fencers, and when they’re invited to compete in a national tournament in Leningrad their coach is forced to weigh up his own safety against the dreams of his students. Nil points for originality, then, but props should go to director Klaus Härö for making such a predictable premise feel fresh and his cast of characters – from a suspicious, disapproving headmaster, to the foil-swinging kids – feel engaging.
The film looks beautiful, too, with bleak, undersaturated landscapes and simple, austere photography establishing a distinct sense of time and place. The climactic fence-off is unexpectedly dramatic and packed with genuine tension, too. Oh, and since we’re reeling off praise, Jack Black isn’t in it.
Cast and crew