“Fleeing from the Russian secret police because of his controversial past, a young Estonian fencer named Endel is forced to return to his homeland, where he begins to train a group of young children in the art of fencing. The past however catches up with him and Endel has to choose between letting his students down or putting his life in danger. The movie is partially based on the real life story of an Estonian fencer Endel Nelis (1925-1993).”
— Mattias Aabmets
Watch the trailer – imdb.com/video/vi3318724889
Estonian actor Märt Avandi plays the part of Estonian fencer Endel Nelis. Nelis has taken the a lowly position teaching physical education to students in a small village. The principal takes an immediate dislike for Nelis, because he was educated at a prestigious university in Leningrad. The principal wants to make Nelis his personal whipping boy to extract his own revenge for his own plight. Nelis knows that he must not make waves and above all he should not get involved in fencing. But that is not to be. To Endel fencing is like breathing. It’s just something that he has to do. At the request of a young student he decides to open a Saturday training class for fencing. He figures it will be a small turnout. Nearly every student in the school shows up. He is doomed.
Marta, played by Liisa Koppel, is young, determined and has spunk. Who can resist that combination?
The school has no budget for him and virtually no equipment. Nelis takes the students on a search for tree branches and sturdy limbs, which he fashions into wispy weapons. As the students improve an old friend from Leningrad forwards used fencing equipment to the school. Endel is determined and so are his students. In the meantime, the principal is gathering information on Nelis to turn him into the secret police.
In the 7th Grade at Hudtloff Junior High I took a short class in fencing at night. While getting out of the car for my first class, I shut the door on my foil and bent the tip. I was doomed. If only I had made my own willow weapon “I coulda been a contender.”
Years ago I was president of the Tacoma Junior Chamber of Commerce. I had a friend in the group by the name of Hans Kask. Kask is Estonian for “birch tree.” One of the fencing students was also named Kask. It was a nice little connection of reality for me.
Endel explains to the students that although they use weapons (a foil) in competition, the sport is about distance and positions. If your opponent advances, you must retreat until you have the opportunity to advance at which time your opponent must retreat.
The principal tries to advance and one-up Endel by suggesting that fencing isn’t what good communists should waste their time on. He is sent into retreat by Endel who informs him that Karl Marx was a fencer. “Touché!” Definition of Touché by Merriam-Webster – “used to acknowledge a hit in fencing or the success or appropriateness of an argument, an accusation, or a witty point.”
The Fencer is a great story about determination, about teaching children that want to learn, and about helping others achieve their dreams. This is also a favorite movie of my wife, Peggy. Great minds . . . etc.
“The inspirational-teacher movie gets an effective, sober-minded iteration in “The Fencer,” a fictional account drawn from the life of the legendary Estonian fencing master Endel Nelis, who in the 1950s founded a school for aspiring young swordsmen that still thrives today. Unfolding under a cloud of suspicion and paranoia fostered by the postwar Soviet occupation, this well-acted, smoothly crafted drama tells a story of cross-generational bonding in the face of historical oppression, in touching if unsurprising fashion.” – Justin Chang
“a true story. this is, in too many cases, the most attractive detail. in the case of ‘The Fencer’, the things are little more complicated. because it is, like many Estonian films, first a testimony. about politic pressure, about refuge, about passion and fundamental change. it is not easy to define it only as impressive/motivational/lovely film. because, using a well known recipes, it is a film about conscience. about self definition, honesty and duty. and, maybe, this is the great virtue of the director. to say what must be said. the story of Endel is the story of many ‘sinners’ against Soviet rules. and this fact did it a beautiful eulogy of freedom. for me, this detail did it an admirable work.” – Kirpianuscus
I found the video on Prime. For more information about the film, you can visit imdb.com.
The views expressed in this article are the writer’s own.