Australian Council on Children and the Media

Fencer, The

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Not recommended under 13 due to themes. The film is also in languages other than English and subtitled.

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Fencer, The
  • a review of Fencer, The completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 5 December 2016.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 13 Not recommended due to themes. The film is also in languages other than English and subtitled.
Children 13 and over OK for this age group

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: Fencer, The
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Mild themes
Length 98 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

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

As a skilled fencer, Endel discovers a foil in the gym one afternoon. Although merely practising for fun, he 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. This occurs much to the dismay of the school’s principal (Hendrik Toompere), who believes that fencing is not an appropriate sport for the children to learn.

The film 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 finds himself needing to decide whether it is worth risking capture by returning to Leningrad to help the children participate in a fencing tournament.

Themesinfo

Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Friendship; mentoring; sport; war and peace; sacrifice

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is some violence within the film in the context of fencing, including:

  • Endel explains to the children that fencing can be a dangerous sport, stating ‘One hit and you are dead. So unless you want to get killed, you need to move fast’.
  • During fencing practice, Marta hits another boy with her foil before he is on guard – he grimaces in pain slightly, but is uninjured due to the protective jacket.
  • Jaan is injured during the tournament – he falls to the floor after being hit by his opponent and a doctor is called

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

Nothing of concern apart from the scenes of fencing described above.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

References are made to some of the children having lost their parents, with them either being dead or missing.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

The situation of some of the children and Endel’s own dilemma may concern this age group

Over thirteeninfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

Nothing of concern

Product placement

Nothing of concern

Sexual references

Nothing of concern

Nudity and sexual activity

There is some sexual activity, including:

  • There is romantic tension between Endel and Kadri. He teaches her to fence, and wraps his arm around her waist while doing so. There are multiple scenes where they hold hands, lean very close to one another and embrace. Endel and Kadri share a brief kiss early in the film. They share another longer, more passionate kiss before he leaves for the Leningrad tournament.

Use of substances

There is some use of substances in the film, including:

  • The principal of the school smokes a cigarette in one scene.
  • Smoking in the background when Endel and Kadri have tea in a local cafe.

Coarse language

None of concern

In a nutshell

The Fencer is a touching film that centres on Endel’s growth and development as he becomes increasingly involved with his students. Initially struggling to relate to them, he gradually begins to realise that although he has a great deal to teach them in the art of fencing, they likewise enrich his life. Inspired by the children’s passion and dedication to improving themselves, he eventually comes to accept the consequences of his own past decisions, and sacrifices his own safety in order to help them realise their dreams.

Due to the film’s themes and the fact that it is subtitled, it is more suitable for older viewers, so is not recommended for children under 13.

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • The importance of working hard to accomplish goals.
  • The need for patience and understanding in dealing with other people.
  • Standing up for what you believe in, particularly in the face of disagreement from others. 

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children attitudes and behaviours, and their real-life consequences, such as:

  • The abuse of power by people in positions of authority.
  • The realities of war, and being forced to fight or face punishment.
  • The rights of children to make their own choices regarding their learning, education, and hobbies.

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