‘The Fencer’

usposter27x40inch_thefencerlowA true story told as a predictable melodrama, The Fencer is conventional but engaging.

Endel Nelis (a solid Mart Avandi) arrives to teach at a school in the small Estonian town of Haapsalu during the post-war Stalin era. His leaving Leningrad stirs suspicion among party officials at the school: the fact he is a fencing champion adds to their interest.

Starting a successful fencing class as part of the (‘voluntary’) Saturday Sports Club goes against the proletariat teaching of the principal – and brings attention on Nelis from education officials outside the town. And then the kids get wind of an all-Soviet elite fencing competition due to take place in Leningrad….

The Fencer is a David & Goliath story set in the drab, atmospheric 1950s (perfectly captured in set design and cinematography). It’s an unchallenging enjoyment marred slightly by an overemphatic score.

Rating: 56%

‘Tangerines’

Tangerines_filmCharming albeit naive and innocent – enemies may come to understand each other in isolation but the world outside cannot be ignored.

Short-listed for the 2014 Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film (Estonia’s first), Tangerines is gently paced with lots of wry humour. And, at its core, is the beautifully nuanced performance by 68 year-old Lembit Ulfsak, a local legend and the voice of Manny the Mammoth in the Estonian version of Ice Age!

Rating: 64%