Productive year: Three full-length Estonian movies competing at PÖFF

Screenshot from "Cherry Tobacco".
Birgit Drenkhan
11/18/2014 6:04 PM
Category: Culture

2014 has been a successful year for the Estonian movie industry. For a small country like Estonia, it is rare to have released three full-length movies in a year.

All three movies are shown at the 18th Black Nights Film Festival, recently named among the 15 most important film festivals in the world, and are also nominees for Tridens Estonian Film Award.

Cherry Tobacco

First of them, “Kirsitubakas” (“Cherry Tobacco”), is a co-work by husbands, Katrin and Andres Maimik, and focusing on relationship between under-age girl and middle-age man. Though it gives impression of Lolita-like affection, it is everything else than Nabokov or any other same themed movie has expressed. There is love, passion, new experiences, although the film is somewhat slow to depict it. Much is left to imagination as if the action took place behind the screen or inside of protagonists’ heads, and on the silver screen we see results – constrained behaviour, hope for phone call, seeking familiar smells, listening songs that were listened together. It is slow and judicious movie, spiced with beautiful pictures of Estonian bogs, which are worth seeing.

“Kirsitubakas” will be screened on 18th November at the Solaris cinema. The authors and protagonists will also be present on the screening.

I Won’t Come Back

Second, a long-awaited movie, was made by Ilmar Raag, collaborating with filmmakers in Belarus and Kazakhstan. Raag's debut “Klass” (“The Class”), a film about school bullying and violence, paved a way for one of the most prolific Estonian film directors of recent years. His latest, “Ma ei tule tagasi” (“I Won’t Come Back”), is in a way a reflection of his first movie. Characters are even more “outsiders”. Protagonists are two orphanage girls; there is bullying, escaping and finding one's place in a society.

When “Cherry Tobacco” depicts peaceful, but forbidden love, and finding innocent ways to express affection, then in Raag`s film the heroes are desperately yearning for warmth of human love, the love that is primary. Beside love theme, it also deals with other social issues, such as trust and the treatment of weaker members of society.

Ancient Greek authors used writing manner, which was called “deus ex machina” - when a story reached to the point with no apparent solution, came God and made a twist that fixed everything. For me, as a viewer, it seemed that Raag had two Gods in his film story, first of whom turned what was already bad, to worst. And then came the second one who turned everything to picture-perfect.

Despite all the twists, the movie is effective and wears a strong emotion. From the technical aspect, the views of nature are literally perfect pictures, especially the ending scene that is an opposite to entire movie in its warm and relaxed depiction. Still, after reaching to an apparent peace, we could sense protagonist inner unease and hesitations over ethics that she had to face. It is a movie that makes you think long after you have left the cinema.

“I Won’t Come Back” will be screened on 18th November at the Coca-Cola Plaza in Tallinn. There will be an opportunity to have a discussion with the director afterwards.

Landscape with Many Moons

The third full-length Estonian movie that is also shown at PÖFF, is a debut by Jaan Toomik - “Maastik mitme kuuga” (“Landscape with Many Moons”). Toomik is often described as internationally most well-known Estonian contemporary artist. For years, he has made video-installations and short movies, so a manouvre of making a full-length film was partly expected.

The author tries to show something that is invisible - experienced absurdity of a man in mid-life crisis. In Estonia, the film has been criticized for not being coherent, that the director has made several short videos and put together as one long movie. I agree, but when ever has a man suffering under depression sensed life in an entirety?

The movie is full of hints and symbols. It is hard to make difference when action on the screen takes place in a protagonist imagination, or whether it's real. The protagonist doesn't lead the action, but is mostly reacting to outside world, trying to be on top of the things that everybody is expecting from him.

It is full of surrealistic scenes, up to the point where some scenes feel out of place completely. For example, mowing the lawn at midnight, naked neighbours watching at the same time from the distance. But public shouldn’t fear that the movie is too artsy and hard to understand, it is still fun to watch. The author doesn't pretend to apply an ultimate truth, his idea is to show a mental collapse. It is like a psychological research, trying to understand how a person could sense the world around him. The movie is important in a sense that in the Estonian society, we rarely talk about mental health, especially men’s mental health.

“Landscape with Many Moons” will be screened on 19th November at the Solaris cinema, attended by the film's director and protagonist.

For Tridens Estonian Film Award are also competing last year favourite “Risttuules” (“In the Crosswind“) – very sensitive, black and white movie, with an absolutely new approach to describe the Soviet deportation enormities. Another movie that is competing, is called “Väikelinna dektektiivid ja Valge Daami saladus” (“Kid Detectives and the Secret of the White Lady”, 2013) – a film inspired by an Astrid Lindgren's book about kids on a summer holyday in a lazy small town.


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