Monday, October 18, 2010

The Country Teacher (Guest Film Review)

THE COUNTRY TEACHER


Director: Bohdan Slama


Czech Republic


Review by KenG

When I found out I’d be screening a film with a gay man as the protagonist, I was both apprehensive and curious. I’ve seen too many films where a leading gay character has to die or suffer some miserable fate as a necessary part of the story’s narrative (BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN, A SINGLE MAN). However, as a gay man myself, I was curious about gay life in eastern Europe, particularly in a non-urban setting. It didn’t hurt that the film was a 2010 GLAAD award nominee for best film.

THE COUNTRY TEACHER, directed by Bohdan Slama, presents a realistic portrayal of a gay man in conflict that is free of the more annoying stereotypes one has come to expect from Hollywood. The movie tells the story of Petr (nicely underplayed by Pavel Liska), a closeted prep-school teacher from Prague who comes to a bucolic Czech village to instruct children in the natural sciences. In an early lesson he advises prophetically, “If we don’t understand nature, we can’t understand ourselves.”


Do Not Own.

Shortly after his arrival, Petr is befriended by Marie (Zuzana Bydzovska), a local cow herder who lives with her teen son Lada (Ladislav Sidivy). While tutoring Lada in math, Petr finds himself attracted to the young man and embarks on a course of action that has traumatic consequences. It made me wonder, if Petr had been an out gay man, would he have had the problems he had? Is it possible to have a healthy romantic relationship if you still have at least one foot in the closet?

This provocative yet sensitive movie doesn’t flinch from showing Petr’s feelings for Lada. We also see that certain cultural touchstones for adulthood are more relaxed in this rural community. There is no adult censure when 17-year-old Lada is seen drinking hard liquor or smoking pot and there is acceptance of his sexually active relationship with a young woman. Does the film show that homosexuality is also acceptable? Well, to a certain extent, yes, but there is also a good deal of bewilderment, fear and ignorance.

Director Bohdan Slama (LIKE HAPPINESS, THE WILD BEES) bravely declines to portray Petr as criminally disturbed and it was refreshing to see that Petr’s parents seemed more concerned about his loneliness than his sexual orientation. While Petr may have felt the need to be alone when he fled city life, he soon discovers that isolation is not the answer. As he stumbles awkwardly toward making bona fide human connections, he discovers they can be found in unanticipated places.

As for Marie’s reaction to Petr’s encounter with her son, Zuzana Bydzovska’s beautifully layered performance shows us that a cow herder can have a pretty sophisticated understanding of human nature. In fact, Marie’s intuitive abilities regarding both Petr and Lada left me wondering whether she was the real “country teacher” here.

For nature lovers, there are two graphic scenes showing a cow giving birth on Marie’s farm. I leave the symbolism for others to discern. But if you’re in the least bit squeamish, you’ve been warned!



KenG has worked in film and television for over twenty years and is a senior advisor to LinkTV’s Acquisition Division.




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35 comments:

Linda Kish said...

This sounds like an interesting film. The write-ups on Amazon were all very positive.

lkish77123 at gmail dot com

Sippy Cup Mom said...

Thanks for the great review! Will check it out when it comes to Netflix!

Linda Henderson said...

Sounds like an interesting movie, I'll be watching for it.

seriousreader at live dot com

amandawk said...

This sounds like a really great and interesting movie.
amandarwest at gmaildotcom

scottsgal said...

sounds like a sensitive thoughtful film

caitieflum said...

That sounds really good - thank you for the review!

Michele said...

There needs to be more realistic films and books available!
Michele

Purple Froggie Clay Stuff said...

This sounds like a very interesting movie.

Cindy
cdowdle2@gmail.com

bukaeyes said...

Would love to watch this!
bukaeyes@aol.com

katychick said...

i wish i had time to read
tcogbill at live dot com

joder said...

Well-written review! This movie sounds very intriguing and I do enjoy foreign films, so I'll be on the lookout for this. The subject matter is one that's important and one that foreign films are more willing to address rather than American film makers.

joderjo402 AT gmail DOT com

campbele said...

I watched this movie earlier this summer. It looks like such a simple movie, but it is so incredibly complex! It was so much about this young man's inability to accept himself. Quite a story!

RBenson said...

Sounds like a good flick.

Michele P. said...

It sounds like a good film, and something I would watch-I enjoyed the review. Will be checking Netflix to see when I can request it... and will suggest it to my friend's son Randy who has recently outed himself after graduating from high school and is amazingly happy with his bf Jay.

meeyeehere said...

This looks like something I would like.It's my kind of film.Thanks for sharing!

Amber D. said...

Sounds like an interesting movie. Glad you are so thorough in your review especially with details with questionable content in the movie!

Heavensent1 said...

You made this movie sound interesting...now I'm also looking forward to checking it out...heavensent1@yahoo dotcom

ape2016 said...

I would like to see this film. I am tired of the stereotypes that Hollywood uses to sell tickets. The outrageous gay friend with great fashion sense is one of my least favorites.
I am not a huge fan of foreign films, but I intend to check this out.
ape2016(at)aol(dot)com

Crazy Cat Lady said...

I will definitely be looking for this one to come out on Netflix...I like my teen daughters to have the opportunity to see real portrayals of gay relationships, not the stereotypical crap so often portrayed by Hollywood.

bdiane34 said...

I have heard positive reviews on this film. Thanks for sharing.

DEBIJOT said...

Great review. I will look forward to seeing this one.

Mommy Minded said...

Great review! Thank you for sharing!

paulasue said...

Sounds like a great film! Paula Caudill paulasue39@yahoo.com

- Marybeth I. said...

I love foreig films but hate subtitles. Assuming this is in english or dubbed?

Little Miss Sunshine said...

Sounds interesting. I might have to skip the birth part though - I definitely fall into the squeamish category.

@AvonLady02 said...

intersting very interesting sound like a renter if possible to rent then I may!

jenspurg said...

Sounds interesting. I think this would be one I'd save for a rental though.
huntandride@hotmail.com

KenG said...

Marybeth--the movie does have subtitles, but the performances are so good that sometimes they're almost unnecessary. Most good foreign films are no longer being dubbed-and with good reason. Even though you may not understand the language, you will appreciate hearing the real actor's voice, especially in a richly emotional film like this one. And for anyone who may be deterred from seeing a film because it's foreign, don't forget there's some cachet to saying you just saw a really cool flick from the Czech Republic!

Jennie Smith said...

I am sad to say that I haven't heard of this movie until now. Thank goodness for the blogging world. Wonderful review. I will definitely be looking into it. Thanks so much!

pmj said...

Sounds interesting!

pmj said...

Sounds interesting!

Dana said...

first i have heard of this movie as well. Great review.

GabbyLowe said...

looks like a great movie-I'lll have to check it out

skkorman said...

Sounds like an interesting film!

Teaching Mommy said...

This would be a movie first, dinner second kind of evening - there would be lots to talk about after viewing the film! Thanks for the review!