This Week’s Recommendation: The Fencer

22 Jan 2021

The Fencer

Estonia/Finland 2015

98 mins, language Estonian, Russian

Directed by Klaus Haro

The Fencer was 792nd film screened by RFS on 15th November 2016. It was one of the four equal top ranked films of Season 56, with an approval rating of 95% from those attending.

In 1953, a man fleeing from the Soviet authorities who just happens to be a champion fencer (incognito) takes up the post of PE teacher in a remote rural poor village school and, despite hostility from the principal, teaches the children to fence sufficiently well  to lead a team to victory in a fencing competition in Leningrad. As a wanted man, he goes to Russia at a considerable personal risk having been drafted into the Estonian contingent of the Nazi army.

The script is based on the life of Endels Nelis, who died in 1993, but the film’s plot takes liberties with his story, in that there is no evidence he was wanted by the KGB even though Estonians paid dearly for being dragooned into Hitler’s killing machine.

Short-listed for the 2016 Academy award for the Best Foreign Language Film, The Fencer is in many ways an old fashioned film: elegiac in its delivery, a predictable romance, haunting music to heighten the dramatic effect, long shots of landscape, quiet and understated -  to quote The Times ‘a pleasure to watch‘.

Full film notes available in the Twickenham & Richmond Tribune -

Regrettably, the film does not currently appear on any streaming services, although discs are available from Amazon and other retailers.





Presented by Richmond Film Society