2010 // Czech Republic // Bohdan Sláma // November 13, 2010 // Theatrical Print (Landmark Plaza Frontenac Cinema)
Nimble in its cinematic technique and pleasantly mellow in its tone, Czech director Bohdan Sláma's The Country Teacher is a touch more refined than the standard coming-out melodrama. When a closeted Prague science teacher (Pavel Liska) flees his personal demons by relocating to a rural school, he wanders into the lives of a hard-bitten widowed cattle rancher and her troubled teenaged son. Sláma's screenplay focuses on the fallout from the collision of diverse personalities and conflicting concerns, although it occasionally veers into the trite with its employment of stale metaphors and platitudes. The film impresses, however, with a discursive, shifting story that displays an intuitive understanding of familial angst while tiptoeing around discomfiting sexual territory. Enlivened by exceptional performances from the cast, marvelously liquid camerawork from Divis Marek, and a pastoral aesthetic that emphasizes both the sweet and bitter, the film ultimately proves to be a gentle but firm condemnation of closeting, one remarkably untethered from the particulars of Czech culture. With a piteous eye, The Country Teacher establishes how bottled anxieties can poison relationships and befuddle morality, and ultimately questions the validity of crude preconceptions about urban-rural cultural dichotomies.