If I’d read the concept for The Country Teacher, I’d have canned it on grounds that the story could not have been pulled off without demonizing the protagonist for his lack of judgment and the teen boy’s mother her choices. Instead, the viewer is presented with an emotionally tangled, confusing and uncomfortable situation that winds out of control.
Peter (Pavel Liska) leaves Prague to teach science in a countryside school. He wants to spread his wings away from his mother, a fellow teacher at the school. Soon, he builds a life in the country village. He befriends Marie (Zuzana Bydzovská), a dairy cow farmer with a young teenage son, Lada (Ladislav Sedivý).
(Spoiler Alert: Read at Your Own Risk!)
The Country Teacher works slowly. Peter is anguished—he’s in the present but not exactly in the moment. Marie is similar. She’s a strong but sad person in search of love and connection. Early on, Peter declares that “Chance is the mother of change.” The statement foreshadows and sets the tone. When Peter’s his former lover unexpectedly shows up to win him back, Peter tells him the truth—he never loved him. He sets out to ruin Peter’s new existence and this leads up to an entertaining catalytic scene. There’s an outdoor party. The town is there dancing to a terrific band (who I’m still trying to identify). As the band plays the chords to the punk rhythms and the townies are dancing, I wanted be at the party dancing with them despite the brimming conflict and tension.
The movies highlights unrequited love, loneliness and forgiveness. Almost all the characters are in love with someone who doesn’t/can’t love them in return. Lada’s girlfriend Bara is the exception: she gets what she wants and doesn’t seem to long; she’s a symbol of hope. The ending doesn’t quite deliver. Peter has metamorphasized but it happens too quickly. Are people are capable of forgiving themselves and others and learning from it, especially in these circumstances?
Writer-Director: Bohdan Sláma
Country: Czech Republic
Run time: 112 minutes