Story

The Fencer is a subtitled foreign movie set in Estonia in 1953. Based on a true story, it follows a man named Endel (Mart Avandi), who has left Leningrad to escape the secret police. Using his mother’s name to avoid the authorities, he takes a job in the sports department of a local village school.

Endel is a skilled fencer, and he discovers a foil in the school gym one afternoon. He begins practising for fun and is interrupted by one of his young students, who asks him to teach her how to fence. All of the students express interest, and Endel begins the process of tutoring and mentoring them in the sport. The school’s principal (Hendrik Toompere), however, believes that fencing isn’t an appropriate sport for the children to learn.

The movie follows Endel as he becomes increasingly invested in supporting the children, while the principal investigates Endel’s history in an effort to have him removed. Eventually, Endel must decide whether helping the children participate in a fencing tournament is worth risking capture in Leningrad.

Themes

Friendship; mentoring; sport; war and peace; sacrifice

Violence

The Fencer has some violence in the context of the sport it features. For example:

  • Endel explains to the children that fencing can be a dangerous sport. He says, ‘One hit and you are dead. So unless you want to get killed, you need to move fast’.
  • During fencing practice, Marta hits a boy with her foil before he is on guard. The boy grimaces in pain slightly, but he isn’t hurt because he’s wearing a protective jacket.
  • Jaan is injured during the tournament. He falls to the floor after being hit by his opponent and a doctor is called.

Content that may disturb children

Under 5
There is nothing of concern for children in this age group, apart from the scenes of fencing described above.

From 5-8
Children in this age group might be disturbed by references to the fact that some of the children have lost their parents, who are either dead or missing.

From 8-13
Children in this age group might be disturbed by the situations the some of the children face, as well as Endel’s own dilemma.

Over 13
Nothing of concern

Sexual references

None of concern

Alcohol, drugs and other substances

The Fencer shows some use of substances. For example:

  • The school principal smokes a cigarette in one scene.
  • When Endel and Kadri have tea in a local café, there are people smoking in the background.

Nudity and sexual activity

The Fencer shows some sexual activity. For example, there is romantic tension between Endel and Kadri. He teaches her to fence, and wraps his arm around her waist as he does so. In many scenes, they hold hands, lean very close to one another and embrace. Endel and Kadri share a brief kiss early in the movie. They share another longer, more passionate kiss before he leaves for the Leningrad tournament. 

Product placement

None of concern

Coarse language

None of concern

Ideas to discuss with your children

The Fencer is a touching movie that focuses on Endel’s growth and development as he becomes increasingly involved with his students.

After struggling to relate to the children, Endel gradually realises that they are enriching his life as he teaches them about the art of fencing. Inspired by the children’s passion and dedication to improving themselves, he eventually comes to accept the consequences of his past decisions, and he sacrifices his safety to help them realise their dreams.

The movie is in languages other than English and is subtitled. Because of this and its themes, it’s more suitable for older viewers, and we don’t recommend it for children under 13 years.

Values in this movie that you could reinforce with your children include the importance of:

  • working hard to accomplish goals
  • being patient and understanding with other people
  • standing up for what you believe in, even when others disagree with you.

This movie could also give you the chance to talk with your children about real-life issues like the:

  • abuse of power by people in positions of authority
  • realities of war and the choices that people make when they’re forced to fight
  • rights of children to make their own choices about learning, education and hobbies.