The Country Teacher/ Venkovský ucitel (Bohdan Sláma, Czech Republic, 2008)

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country teacher poster

Petr (Pavel Liska), young, shy, gifted, arrives in a rural village from Prague to teach science. How will he fit in? Why has he left Prague? The film has a lovely feel for nature and for rural life; people take each other milk in bottles as gifts, calving becomes a metaphor for people’s relationships, some people are allowed to make love naturally, almost openly, in haystacks; others aren’t. The narrative  is designed around three sets of structuring tensions: the city vs the country; one urban, ambitious, controlling mother vs one who farms, gets by, and is understanding without being a pushover; and two sets of sons, a highly educated and sensitive gay boy who moves to the countryside and an equally sensitive boy with learning difficulties who wants to move to Prague and win back his girlfriend. The film looks beautiful and makes one long to experience the Czech countryside. It also succeeds in showing, with insight and delicacy, multiple ways of being and various ways of life that still exist, co-exist, and happily, today. As the tagline to the film’s poster says, ‘Everybody needs someone’; the film is quite moving in showing how this somebody one needs might not necessarily be who one thought, expected or initially desired.  I also loved the performance of Zuzana Bydzovská as Marie. She looks like Katharine Hepburn, exudes the rueful worldliness of Jeanne Moreau but can ride a tractor like nobody’s business. The film’s main fault is in its climax which I found self-abasing to the point of self-hatred and which almost ruined this lovely film for me.

José Arroyo

the country teacher

Seen at Kitoks Kinas, Vilnius, July 26th, 2013

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