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A Simple Country Life Turns Upside Down

MOVIE REVIEW
The Country Teacher (2008)

3_Country Teahcer_Haystack
Film Movement

Bohdan Sláma’s “The Country Teacher” begins deceptively as a story about a natural science teacher, Petr (Pavel Liška), who has given up his job at a prep school in Prague for a post in the idyllic Czech countryside. His decision makes no sense to a new colleague, although it seems apparent to moviegoers that his affinity for nature has something to do with it. But half an hour in, the film proves that we are just as clueless as his fellow teacher. Petr has been leading a double life, and the past he left behind is gradually catching up to him.

The beauty of Mr. Sláma’s film is how it deftly unwraps a series of surprises for the audience, yet none of them seem like gratuitous twists. It’s unfortunate that some critics have chosen to spoil many of those, following the lead of the synopsis in the press notes. A shrewder distributor could have turned this film into the next “Monsieur Hier.” “The Country Teacher” is indeed a thriller by genre, but it is captivating mostly for its depiction of the protagonist’s passive surrender to forces of nature. All the sad-sack characters in the film are unnervingly identifiable, even when their loneliness devolves into desperation. But when Petr finally succumbs to his demons and commits an unforgivable crime, the film’s attempt at a happy ending comes off as quite disingenuous.

THE COUNTRY TEACHER

Opened on March 27 in Manhattan.

Written and directed by Bohdan Slama; director of photography, Divis Marek; edited by Jan Danhel; music by Vladimir Godar; production designers, Vaclav Novak and Petr Pistik; produced by Pavel Strnad, Petr Oukropec, Karl Baumgartner and Thanassis Karathanos; released by Film Movement. In Czech, with English subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 53 minutes. This film is not rated.

WITH: Pavel Liska (Teacher), Zuzana Bydzovska (Marie), Ladislav Sedivy (Boy), Marek Daniel (Boyfriend), Tereza Voriskova (Popsie) and Milos Cernousek (School Principal).

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