"Miekkailija" or "The Fencer" is a Finnish/Estonian 90-minute movie from 2015 directed by Klaus Härö, a filmmaker with a long history of successful films and many awards wins, and written by Anna Heinämaa, her first screen writing effort apparently. The lead actor is Märt Avandi and, to me, he is still completely unknown, but he gives a quietly convincing performance here, nothing great, but certainly one of the better aspects of the film. I felt the movie was at its best when it completely focused on the historic background of the time, during which this film is set. The fencing is used as a means early on to elaborate on that political context and that is perfectly fine. Unfortunately, halfway into the film, the fencing becomes the center of the film and it just isn't such a relevant movie anymore at this point.
It turns basically into a "Rocky" story and I am not a fan of this film at all either. David-Goliath has been done so many times and this is one more. Too bad it is just another unrealistic one. I guess they thought showing the girl's face expressions on several occasions made this more significant or funny with the ending, but it was all so unrealistic and predictable that at times it felt difficult for me to take this film serious anymore. Of course you could interpret her fight with the bigger Russian guy as a metaphor for the protagonist fighting the system, which is much bigger than him too, but that's just grasping for straws in trying to find a deeper meaning in here.
Fact is the film lost a lot of quality around the 50-minute mark, basically at this point, during which it turns into another mediocre sports movie. The ending makes a reference back to the early political context, but the movie has gone south so much at this point already that even this is not working anymore. It feels so random that they are suddenly there coming to arrest him, but he chooses to keep watching the fight, after he fled from his home country before the film started. Is it realistic that he stays now? The film has a couple moments that had difficulties in feeling authentic. Another one would be the guy working at his new gym. Early on, he seems like the main antagonist, but at some point, completely out of nowhere, but after a truly demeaning act (did he have regrets?) he suddenly seems to feel for the main character. That really sucked as I liked him as the bad guy.
Overall, I quite enjoyed the early parts, but the longer the film went the more forgettable it became. They did not manage to elaborate convincingly on some really good aspects they brought in early. Quite a shame. This film had potential for more. On the one hand, it surprises me, despite its mediocrity during major parts, that the film is Golden-Globe nominated and made the Oscar films short-list. Then again, they love films about politics with a bit of a sentimental background. We'll see if this one gets the Oscar nomination or not or maybe even has a shot at winning. In my opinion, it's nowhere near the best 5 Foreign Language movies I have seen from this year. Still, it's not a failure either and I guess you can check it out, especially if you like "Rocky" more than I do.
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