“Risttuules” (“In the Crosswind”), which takes an unusual "tableau vivant" approach to the painful subject of the 1941 mass deportations from Estonia, opens in cinemas across the country today.
The plot follows the fate of a family throughout their ordeals, starting with the June deportations of 1941 and ending in 1956. The story is based on real letters and life histories, and the filmmakers also met with several people who survived the deportations and collected their stories.
The film features 13 still scenes that all have impacted the fate of the protagonist Erna. The still scenes are carefully posed and theatrically lit, and through the duration of the display, the people shown do not speak or move.
Three years in the making and with original music by composer Pärt Uusberg, the majority of the film’s crew is made up of young filmmakers, including director and screenwriter Martti Helde.
Helde told the culture program OP! that the format of “living pictures” was chosen due to the delicacy of the subject matter and it is meant as an homage to the generation that was affected by the deportations.
“I can’t quite imagine a fast-edited live action deportation drama today,” Helde said. “I can, however, imagine a story with monumental visuals that would tell Estonia's tragic history in a more delicate way. It seemed fitting somehow.”
The director of cinematography Erik Põllumaa named Béla Tarr as one of his influences and added he was at times worried that the film would turn out “too beautiful” as it would not be suitable for the subject matter.
Helde and Uusberg told ETV's morning program on Wednesday that there are few people in Estonia unaffected by deportations, their own families included. Helde called teachers to bring students to see the film so that the young would take the time to talk about it with their grandparents and get to know the subject better.