‘Country Teacher’ is lovely, but the main story is stale

  • By Robert Horton Herald Film Critic
  • Thursday, July 23, 2009 3:03pm
  • LifeGo-See-Do

The title character of “The Country Teacher” isn’t from the country at all, although he’s got a new job there. Mopey Peter has just moved from Prague to a small village, the better to escape his life.

The reason Peter left the city, the major weakness of this otherwise well-produced Czech film, is a “secret” feebly teased out for the first half-hour or so. This is especially true since few people will go to this movie without already knowing that Peter’s homosexuality is at issue.

Peter, played by reflective, bespectacled Pavel Liska, settles into his new life, fending off the romantic interest of a friendly farm woman (Zuzana Bydzovska). She’s older than Peter and has the stark features and red hair of the subject of Andrew Wyeth’s “Helga” paintings.

Nevertheless, she becomes a maternal figure to the younger Peter, which makes sense, as she has a teenage son, Lada, of her own. Peter’s feelings for Lada stay bottled up until one inappropriate moment, which represents a fairly serious rupture of the little rural scene that’s been unfolding.

Liska gives an intense performance as the teacher, although putting this kind of sad sack at the center of a movie makes it difficult for the whole thing to take flight. When his ex-lover visits the village to find out what his former friend is up to, he’s so much more energetic and boisterous (even while being a jerk) that you can’t help becoming curious about his story.

And the tale of a closeted gay man coming to terms with telling the rest of the world about his orientation feels stale. Not that such situations aren’t still happening all the time, but the movies have kind of been here already.

What keeps this interesting is the great eye of director Bohdan Slama, who (like most Czech filmmakers, it seems) has absolutely marvelous skills with the camera. Most scenes play out in a single shot, and whether Slama is looking across an outdoor party at night or craning up to see what a lazy afternoon looks like from the top of a haystack, he communicates a real sense of being there.

It ends with, alas, a cliche of the rural movie, a scene in a stable. Oh well — even talented directors can stumble across trite situations. Unfortunately, “The Country Teacher” has one too many.

“The Country Teacher” 1/2

A teacher from Prague gets a job in a village, the better to escape the tension of being a closeted gay man. This film is beautifully shot and acted, but one too many trite situations, including the stale central dilemma, keep it from completely succeeding. (In Czech, with English subtitles.)

Rated: Not rated; probably R for subject matter

Showing: Varsity

Talk to us

More in Life

The 2023 Infiniti QX80 has standard rear-wheel drive and optional four-wheel drive available on all models. (Infiniti)
2023 Infiniti QX80 is powerful and posh

A mighty V8 engine does the work while a luxurious interior provides the pleasure.

Artist Michelle Downes prepares to work on a few canvases in her garage workspace on Thursday, July 6, 2023, at her family’s home in Stanwood, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Stanwood artist Michelle Downes creates layered dreamscapes in resin

Resin is one part chemistry and one part artistry. Downes combines the two to make art that captures the imagination.

Kotor's zigzagging town wall rewards climbers with a spectacular view. (Cameron Hewitt / Rick Steves' Europe)
Rick Steves: Just south of Dubrovnik lies unpolished Montenegro

One of Europe’s youngest nations offers dramatic scenery, locals eager to show off their unique land, and a refreshing rough-around-the-edges appeal.

Dark gray wheels and black exterior accents provide extra visual appeal for the 2024 Subaru Impreza’s RS trim. (Subaru)
2024 Subaru Impreza loses a little, gains a lot

The brand’s compact car is fully redesigned. A couple of things are gone, but many more have arrived.

TSR image for calendar
Music, theater and more: What’s happening in Snohomish County

This weekend in Snohomish: The Snohomish Blues Invasion and the Snohomish Studio Tour 2023.

Made by Bruce Hutchison, the poster for “A Momentary Diversion on the Road to the Grave” is an homage to 1985 classic “The Goonies.” (Photo provided)
Indie film premiering on Whidbey Island

Filmed almost entirely on Whidbey Island, “A Momentary Diversion on the Road to the Grave” is set to premiere in Langley.

TSR image only
Does your elementary school child have ADHD?

It’s important to identify children with this condition so we can help them succeed in school.

This photo provided by OceanGate Expeditions shows a submersible vessel named Titan used to visit the wreckage site of the Titanic. In a race against the clock on the high seas, an expanding international armada of ships and airplanes searched Tuesday, June 20, 2023, for the submersible that vanished in the North Atlantic while taking five people down to the wreck of the Titanic. (OceanGate Expeditions via AP)
A new movie based on OceanGate’s Titan submersible tragedy is in the works: ‘Salvaged’

MindRiot announced the film, a fictional project titled “Salvaged,” on Friday.

A clump of flowering ornamental grass or pennisetum alopecuroides in an autumn garden.
My garden runneth over with fountain grasses, and for good reason

These late-blooming perennials come in many varieties. They work well as accents, groundcovers, edgings or in containers.

Most Read