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Film / The Fencer

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The Fencer is a 2015 Finnish/German/Estonian historical drama. Set in Estonia in the aftermath of World War II. A young man moves to a small town in Estonia, fleeing his past in Leningrad. There he takes up a teaching position and endears himself to the children and their parents by teaching them fencing, making substitute weapons from reeds and cardboard. This doesn't endear him to the school's administration who think of fencing as inappropriate for the proletariat, and seek to put a stop to this, no matter what.

The film can be described as a Ragtag Bunch of Misfits sports movie... that happens to be set in Soviet Russia in a period of paranoia and political disappearings.


This film contains examples of:

  • But Not Too Evil: A rare heroic example. Endel was drafted into the Nazi army, but in order to maintain audience sympathy he was explicitly stated to not have fought and went AWOL.
  • Defector from Decadence: Endel deserted the Nazis after being drafted. He and some friends simply hid in the woods until the whole "World War II" thing cleared up.
  • Down to the Last Play: In the finals of the fencing tournament, the score is tied, the Moscow team has priority (meaning they win if it's a tie), and the team's best fencer is injured. Little Marta is their last hope. She manages to score a touch with a second to spare, winning the whole tournament.
  • The Exile: Endel is under vaguely self-imposed exile from Leningrad. He's not technically barred from there, but he's well aware that if he goes back, he will be found and sent to The Gulag.
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  • Hero of Another Story: Jaan's grandfather. It's clear there's more to him, with his willingness to not conform, undisclosed past, and the fact he was mysteriously taken away in the middle of the night but it's never explored.
  • I Did What I Had to Do: The principal, when he meets Endel in the stairwell at the climax of the film. He says he did what was expected of him (reporting Endel to the Secret Police), and Endel does not seem to blame him.
  • Parental Substitute: Endel becomes this to many of the children in the fencing club. As Kadri points out, almost all of them lost their father in the war. Endel eventually reciprocates, caring for the kids like they're his own.
  • Pet the Dog: At the film's climax, Endel is cornered at the sports arena. He tries to flee, only to find the principal barring his way. The principal is more than willing to let Endel go and disappear. He didn't want all this, he just wanted Endel out of his hair.
  • Retired Outlaw: Well, substitute "outlaw" for Nazi. Endel is a former Nazi draftee and really trying hard to keep that under wraps, as the Soviet government has been sending all draftees they can find to labor camps.
  • Tired of Running: Endel's reason for risking everything to go to the tournament? He's tired of running from his past and looking over his shoulder. But if he's going to essentially give himself up, he's going to accomplish something in the process.
  • Underdogs Never Lose: At the film's climax, Endel takes four of the kids to Leningrad for a fencing tournament. Despite being from the smallest town, having no electric equipment, and only having trained for a few months, they do surprisingly well. In fact, they wind up winning.
  • Whatever Happened to the Mouse?: Jaan's grandfather's fate is never revealed. Even after Endel is released, he is never discussed.
  • With All Due Respect: Endel asks the principal "with all due respect" how he's supposed to run a sports club with no equipment. The principal essentially shrugs Endel off.