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COUNTRY TEACHER, THE (VENKOVSKY UCITEL) (director/writer: Bohdan Slama; cinematographer: Divis Marek; editor: Jan Danhel; music: Vladimir Godar; cast: Pavel Liska (Peter, Teacher), Zuzana Bydzovska (Mary), Ladislav Sedivy (Lada), Marek Daniel (George), Tereza Voriskova (Bara), Milos Cernousek (School Principal), Zdena Kucerov√° (Vlasta, granny), Zuzana Kronerov√° (Mother), Miroslav Krobot (Father); Runtime: 117; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Pavel Strnad/Petr Oukropec/Karl Baumgartner/Thanassis Karathanos; Film Movement; 2008-Czech-in Czech with English subtitles)
The didactic lecture on forgiveness was a bore and all the contrivances smelled like manure.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A well-played but overwrought melodrama with a gay theme, that lands softly in the hay as a life lesson morality tale that tells those who perhaps don’t know ‘to believe in yourself’ and that ‘everybody needs someone.’ The enemy here is loneliness. We’re told it’s worst to be alone than to be in a homosexual relationship. Director Bohdan Slama (“Wild Bees”/”Something Like Happiness”) takes us to the sticks, just outside of Prague, where introspective and bespectacled thirty-something science teacher Peter (Pavel Liska) has landed after rejecting his teaching post in an elite prep school in Prague. Here Peter will teach science in a rural elementary school. The gruff realist principal (Milos Cernousek) senses he’s running away from something and gives his brilliant teacher six months before quitting this culturally barren place.

We’re left in the dark for awhile as to what the somber, pensive teacher is fleeing from, but we witness the teach push away the sexual advances of his older weather-beaten middle-aged neighbor Mary (Zuzana Bydzovska), a local cow herder and widow with a bitter history of marriage. We then watch teach pine for her troubled, unruly, gangly 17-year-old son Lada (Ladislav Sedivy). And we will at last know what’s on Peter’s mind when he goes home and tells his flustered mom he’s gay, and that when he told his girlfriend that he was rejected and thereby fled Prague in shame.

Back in the boonies, the polite and quiet Peter gets uptight with the visit of the bisexual George (Marek Daniel), his ex-lover–a loud-mouth, bully and troublemaker. When George can’t get Peter in the sack, he steals Lada’s teenage city girlfriend Bara (Tereza Voriskova) and thereby breaks Lada’s heart. The repressed Peter tries to comfort the drunken lad and winds up fondling him while he’s sleeping, and receives the kid’s scorn when he’s awakened. After much soul searching by the two adults, Mary and Peter, their endangered relationship ends in reconciliation. The film’s climax is in Mary’s barn (manger), when Mary, Lada and Peter assist in the birth of a calf and marvel at how wonderful is nature.

The didactic lecture on forgiveness was a bore and all the contrivances smelled like manure, as everything seemed so facile and presented more for the mind than the heart.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”