laupäev, jaanuar 05, 2013

eestlanna pariisis

From one jobu to another.
Had the chance to watch a film on the Finnair flight. Three films, in fact. The other two are not worthy of discussion, not only because they had nothing to do with Estonia, but because they were so outrageously stupid (The Campaign and The Hangover), although this reverence for stupidity is among the sturdiest pillars of Americanness.

Eestlanna Pariisis is not a stupid American film. It is a quiet, brooding European film and it made me cry. Maybe that happened because I was so exhausted. But there was something about the way that Anne's (Laine Mägi) life in Estonia was portrayed -- the jobu drunk ex-husband, the spacey grandmother with dementia, the silent funeral with vodka shots, the unrenovated apartment with Soviet furnishings, the primped, self-absorbed kids who couldn't stick around for a funeral because they had to go to work, not to mention all the darkness and snow --  that brought me to tears, probably because it was so accurate.

My sister-in-law's mother-in-law really does have dementia and lives at home. We do have close relatives whose lives have been destroyed by alcohol. Most of the 80s and 90s-born youth in our Estonian family ("Republicans" as the Estonian writer Andrei Hvostov describes the rising generation of Estonian youth that has no memory of the Soviet era) have adopted global personas and fantasize of a new, hipper existence at the center of it all in New York or London. Goodbye Põltsamaa, hello Paris!

But as Anne finds out, Paris isn't much better than Tallinn. She trades one jobu (jerk) at home for another abroad, in this case nasty old coot and Estonian exile named Frida (Jeanne Moreau). I hate to say it, but I think Estonians were proud that the aging film legend Moreau appeared in an Ilmar Raag film with the word Estonienne in the title, that Frenchness itself could coexist with Estonianness in such a mopey and intense European manner. Moreau didn't speak Estonian in the film, except maybe an attempt at "Tere," but a lot of exiles have left their linguistic identities behind, as I have seen time and again.

It's the, "Wait, this isn't a dream?" phenomenon. Estonia feels like an island, you see. Water and swamps all around. When you leave, you start to wonder if it really exists. It made my heart stir a bit to hear Estonian and French spoken in the same scene, not only because it proved that Estonia is real, but because Mägi has superb diction and I could understand every word, so unlike Seenelkäik (Mushrooming), another film from the past year, where actors Raivo Tamm and Juhan Ulfsak's muddy and impenetrable baritones made my wife our official translator.

Mägi also played her body well. There were messages in the simple ways she removed trays of food or cleaned up an intentionally spilled cup of tea. Mägi has a thin, elegant frame and as she doesn't say much (many Estonians aren't big talkers), so she has to use her movements to fill scenes with the emotions required (humiliation, determination, loneliness, apprehension). I did find some of the Frenchness in the film overplayed (the fresh croissants, the fashion), but I can't criticize that, considering I did some of the same things in my novel Montreal Demons ("behold, the boulangerie, the thigh high boots!") Plus, this is a film geared to ladies who go to the cinema with other ladies, not to the audience of The Hangover or The Campaign, or even Seenelkäik, ie. guys like me.

So, is it a great film? I am not a film critic. Maybe it was terrible. But I liked it and it had an effect on me sitting up there above the cold clouds and strong gusts of Greenlandic wind. Yes, I liked it.

16 kommentaari:

Marko ütles ...

I liked it too. And I'm one of those 'Republican' guys who had to explain it to my English partner why Laine came across as awkward as she did. And that made me wonder. There must be literally tens of thousands of elderly people living in Estonia who have not been exposed to the life 'on the other side of the fence'. People who think that their world in Põltsamaa is the only 'right kinda' world there is. They just don't know that for example your attire can be considered as an extension to your manners. That not all 'orders' from a lady or a gent are not necessarily orders at all. Etc. Total lack of exposure.

Luckily this was a film about ladies. It would have been even more contradictive with gents playing main characters.

Liivimaa parim ratsutaja ütles ...

Making a grown man cry ... Wow, cannot wait to see the film.

I have a strange relationship to crying. Tell me if you guys can relate to it somehow ... I feel salty discharge in the corner of my eyes while watching a sad movie, whereas looking at the footage from Sandy Hook elementary I feel nothing. The only emotion I can muster is anger at republicans. The real ones. The gun nuts etc.

Dolphins also make me cry.

Liivimaa parim ratsutaja ütles ...

Making a grown man cry ... Wow, cannot wait to see the film.

I have a strange relationship to crying. Tell me if you guys can relate to it somehow ... I feel salty discharge in the corner of my eyes while watching a sad movie, whereas looking at the footage from Sandy Hook elementary I feel nothing. The only emotion I can muster is anger at republicans. The real ones. The gun nuts etc.

Dolphins also make me cry.

Giustino ütles ...

I'm with you, LPR. I can't cry at funerals. But some extended shot of grim-faced Laine tiptoeing around and I'm all boohoo.

Liivimaa parim ratsutaja ütles ...

Ever felt like you gonna burst into laughter at funerals? I've experienced it twice and I never forget. It was shocking myself. I felt super uncomfortable.

One was my teacher's and the other my grandfather. I was a kid. But, still ... everyone wiping tears while I stand there struggling not to grin like an idiot.

I found Irish funerals much different. I've ben to IRish weddings and funerals and there are memories I cannot distinguish did this or that happen at a funeral or at wedding. The Irish act alternatively jolly and solemn on both occasions. I love it. Grinning among the Irish would not have been a problem ...

Why am i talking about this? Never mind, I am trolling as usual. Who cares? No harm done.

Marko ütles ...

LPR, ever been to a funeral in Võru county? Its a bit like British wake - they drink, they dance, they tell funny stories and have a laugh, can even end up as a punch up if they had a bit too much to drink, lol. So, no I don't agree that stereotypical Estonian wake is as Mr Raag depicted it. There are great regional variations.

I still don't get what in particular made you weepy, Giuostino? Was it the feeling of hopelessness, the stark reality of mundane everyday life of some trapped individuals? I think Raag did a good job there, by showing us things as they are. That's the kind of realism that has always been present in Estonian films, its a great tradition and I don't want to see it go. I want more of it. The Finns and Swedes like to gloss it over a bit, to make it more palletable to the international audiences, I hope Estonia will not follow suit.

The film also made me think about people who act as carers to their loved ones. Its a great self sacrifice and I think as a society, ever aging mind you, we need to provide them with greater support.

I think that 'märkamisaeg' is here to stay. Films like this one, help to cement that. And all in all its a good thing.

Giustino ütles ...

Well, Marko, I think it was that part when she put in the old cassette of French pop music -- the idea that this person might have once had something resembling a fulfilling life, or at least dreams of one. I had also wanted to believe that the film was overplaying the "poor Eastern European" stereotype, but unfortunately, most of those scenes checked out with some real life situations.

Marko ütles ...

I see. But poverty trap has nothing to do with stereotypes or Eastern vs Western Europe. There's millions of people in Britain who wake up every morning in to very same daily realities. Homelessness, food banks, alcoholism and drug abuse, domestic violence and neglect, breakdown of families - these are very real things in the so called 'west' too. In Estonia we tend to highlight it more, its more of an mainstream discussion, while in Britain some like to pretend that it is only limited to the uncivil 'east', and they back it up with ' but I saw this movie '. Which is utter nonsense, if you think about it.

But I too feel for her generation. Did you know that in the seventies labourers hourly wage after tax was equal to the cost of bottle of Stoli? A bottle of Stolid now costs in the region of 15 pounds. So there was a great fall in living standards to the point that in 1992 average monthly wage was 35 euros, it has to be mentioned that it was coupled with rationing so you'd get your basic food on top for free. In 2012 average wage was around 800 euros, so we managed to caught up a bit, but nowhere near what Laziness would have had in her youth. Its like she started her life with livingstandards similar to modern day Norway, and then fall to Bulgarian levels and now slowly catching up again. Obviously men, as traditionally main providers to the family took the hardest hit - emotionally and confidence wise. But that was the cost of independence - a step taken with full awareness.

So yes, it has been a journey to her generation. A greatest journeys of any generation since the War for Independence. And I have my upmost respect to those people - the silent and invisible, people who gave up all so that people of my generation can have it all. And if I think about it from that perspective, I too, might share a tear or two.

Marko ütles ...

Sorry for the typos, the predictive text is a real headache.

Rainer ütles ...

"I had also wanted to believe that the film was overplaying the "poor Eastern European" stereotype, but unfortunately, most of those scenes checked out with some real life situations."

Of course they did. But if people keep emphasising only one side of reality, it will become the only perceivable reality to some. Ilmar Raag has a reputation of a clever cynic, who knows exactly what both domestic and foreign audiences expect and want to see in an Estonian film. For instance after seeing his movie called Klass, which I would personaly categorise as a piece of social porn, it's very hard to convince a foreigner that there has in fact never been a case of school shooting in Estonia. Because it "fits the picture" so well.

Here's a very good piece on the subject: http://www.kinokultura.com/specials/10/laaniste.shtml

Marko ütles ...

Well said Rainer, but I wouldn't call him a cynic just because he highlights some social issues. I really liked the Klass. School bullying is a very serious subject and a really sore one for lots of us. I experienced it for a period, and not just your average namecalling, I'm talking about cracked ribs and bruises and bleeding noses for months on end, real physical and emotional terror. It can destroy real lives and no matter if filmmaker overplays it - issue itself has to get as much airplay as possible. To get rid of the problem, we have to admit to it first. And the shock tactic that some of the directors use fits the bill nicely - they show it to us in all it's naked glory.

School bullying can be stopped, carers living in poverty because they care for their loved ones 24/7 can be lifted out of misery. All it takes is little intervention, that's all.

Worring about stereotypes in the backdrop of all these issues is jut petty. Pathetic. Who gives the shit, excuse the language, what they think? These are problems relevant to our people in our country, the rest can snear all they want. At least we are dealing with it, and that's important.

Rainer ütles ...

"...but I wouldn't call him a cynic just because he highlights some social issues." Marko, you are right and righteous as always, but there is highlighting of relevant social issues, and there is exploitation of them for various, often selfish, ends. I have every reason to suspect Raag of the latter. Stereotypes be damned, but it seems to me you got too emotionally invested in Klass because of your personal experiences. You sometimes let those experiences get the best of you. At the risk of turning this into a pissing contest I confess I'm also familiar with school bullying. Just to assure you I know what I'm talking about

Marko ütles ...

And why exactly should I not get emotionally involved? If my feelings were hurt, damn right I'm gonna say it out. Life is too short for tiptoeing around wankers, excuse the language, who should know better. Not you, Rainer, but I'm sick and tired of walking on eggshells just because if I wouldn't it would upset the 'natural order' of things as the local thug happens to be the son of the vicar. Not me, mate.

Anyhow. Social issues are always relevant from given individuals perspective. What's important to me, might not be important to you. I get that. But. What if, we drag them all out from the dark in to the bright light of day? Why couldn't we think they are all relevant to someone somewhere at some point of their lives? Why can't we think that, okay this is not relevant to me now but it could be relevant when my nice starts school, or when my elderly mother is likely to need help in form of care at some point in not so distant future? And then what? I think it is not wrong to think about these things, and the more we think the better solutions we might come up with in the process. Do you know what I mean?

I think, Rainer, that it might be that you are a bit too sensitive to the stuff that the likes of Christine would come up with. She would see Klass and say something like 'just what I thought about this Eastern European country, aren't they awful'. But you and I should know better - for some, films like this can act as a part of an healing process. Sometimes people find it difficult to talk about it outright, and then they would say that watch this movie, something like that happened to me in the past and then they might be able to talk about it in some form or another. Do you know what I mean? And if Raag can make few euros in process, so be it. But it is also clear that without this film, we would not even be discussing school bullying on this thread, and he deserves credit for that.

jim carrey ütles ...

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Christine ütles ...

This sounds like a very sad movie about a topic that is not uniquely Estonian.
I found the discussion very interesting especially how some confessed to not being able to cry at funerals, an admission most people would not be willing to make.

At the end I was struck by one thing... how compartmentalized your life has become.

When you arrived home here after this long 3 movie flight you never mentioned the dark movie you watched, but you did go on and on about the "Hangover" movie, a movie that you had never seen and how you laughed your self silly on the plane.

I guess it's hard to admit to your Esto audience that you are not so bi national and that you still find base American humor totally appealing.

Frankly dark so called intellectual European movies leave me feeling mostly dark and morose and not much more.

Giustino ütles ...

I watched The Hangover after Eestlanna Pariisis.