Tonight sees the premiere, at the Solaris Cinema in Tallinn, of the new Estonian film "Nullpunkt" (Zero Point). The film is a co-production between Allfilm and ERR, and is based on the book by Margus Karu, which was released in 2010 and became a bestseller; its story of youthful alienation and school cliques struck a chord with young Estonians who felt they had experienced the same thing at school.
The central character, Johannes, played by actor Märt Pius, is a teenager from a humble background who qualifies for one of Estonia's top elite high schools. While there, he has to contend with abuse from those who feel they are better than him because of their social background, while also clashing with his parents, who do not understand his new life. He feels isolated, as his old friends move on from him, and reaches a "nadir," or "all-time low", from which he must make a crucial choice.
The filmmakers cast actors in a rigorous process that began in 2011, auditioning young people of all levels of experience. After such a long production and release schedule, it would be understandable if some of the actors felt they could relate to the pressures on their characters. Brigitte Susanne Hunt, who plays Paula, told ERR News, "even though people change as they get older, bullying never goes out of style for some people. Paula is the most stereotypical bully - rich, beautiful and having a lot of power over people. She bullies Johannes for being different and I think this is something people tend to do in many schools."
When asked if she felt the events in "Nullpunkt" were true-to-life, Hunt replied, "even though the story goes back 10 years, it doesn't mean that bullying the less privileged has gone out of the picture nowadays. It hasn't. Having attended an elite school myself, I know that Nullpunkt is not made-up. Bullying, and being nasty to people who are less privileged than you, is still very common."
The actor, who is presently studying for a journalism degree, added that she related most to the lead character, Johannes. "He doesn't want to be like others want him to be. He has the courage to stand up for himself and not care about jealous people around him. I think this is the part we have in common: we don't care what others think, we want to be happy in our own way."
The book has won fans all over Estonia, with thousands of readers empathizing with the struggle of a young man to find his own identity amid intense pressure to conform. Author Kaisi Kask, whose book "Minu Väga Hea Aasta" ("My Very Good Year") will be published shortly following a successful crowdsourcing campaign, is anticipating eagerly the release of the film, saying, "I believe the movie and the book are really lifelike, and I can say that almost every school student in Estonia has been influenced somehow by bullying. It's nice to see that you are not alone with your problems and that somehow there can be a solution to everything."
All screenings will have subtitles in English and Russian.
In January, Nullpunkt will be serialized on ETV.