BY THE SWORD reveals the unfamiliar world of the modern fencing academy where excellence in athletic ability borders on cruelty and death. The middle-aged Maximilian Suba (F. Murray Abraham), haunted by dreams of medieval knights in mortal combat, seeks to become an instructor at the Vallard Fencing Academy in New York. Alexander Vallard (Eric Roberts) is a two-time Olympic winner who has succeeded to the world class’ status once held by his father. Max is at first relegated to janitorial services, but Alexander soon realizes that Max was once a great fencer and allows him to instruct the beginners. However, it is clear that Max has more on his mind than just being an instructor. He has just returned from prison after serving twenty years for killing a man–Alexander’s father. In the climactic scene, Max tries to communicate to Alexander in a most pointed way that winning is not everything, although Alexander’s father had taught Max that it was. In the end, they both recognize that there are higher values in life than excellence.
BY THE SWORD is a well-directed, extremely well-acted movie with some unexpected twists and turns. Unfortunately, there are a few holes in the plot, some unnecessary foul language and two ridiculous obligatory sex scenes (with nothing shown). Even so, the film is a unique look at the value of life and forgiveness–values which transcend the need to win.
(B, LL, N, SS, VV) Biblical pro-life and pro-forgiveness message marred by: 14 obscenities & 4 profanities; 2 bedroom scenes with partial male & female nudity (but nothing shown); and, violent sword fight.