Set against the revolutionary tumult of 1868 and events which paved the way for Spain’s adoption of the modern secular state, The Fencing Master boasts a superb villianess in Assumpta Serna – last seen despatching male lovers at the critical moment in Almodovar’s erotic melodrama Matador.
Serna plays the elegant, mysterious Adela, the first and only woman to be instructed in the art and philosophy of the sword by Don Jamie adheres to a rigorous code and holds himself above the turbulent politics of Madrid. But captivated by his new pupil, he reveals the secret of his unique, deadly thrust – and is caught in a spiral in intrigue, betrayal and murder.
Assumpta Serna aside, The Fencing Master features an equally superb performance by Taviani regular Omero Antonutti who contrives to make his ageing, reactionary hero sympathetic and humane. Director Pedro Olea skilfully orchestrates with a climax of ferocious, visceral power.