Friday, September 07, 2012

Elu tsitadellis / Life in a Citadel

Жизнь в цитадели / Elämä sisärenkaassa / [Elämää linnakkeessa] / Livet i citadellet. EE-SU: Estonian Socialist Soviet Republic 1947. PC: Lenfilm. P: Herbert Rappaport, Sergei Ivanov, Jevgeni Enei. D: Herbert Rappaport. SC: Leonid Trauberg – based on the play (1946) by August Jakobson. DP: Sergei Ivanov. AD: Jevgeni Enei. SFX: A. Erin. Cost: L. Sildkneht. Makeup: A. Jefimov.  M: Eugen Kapp. Conductor: Leonhard Valter. ED: D. Lander. Filmi direktor: I. Goldin. C: Hugo Laur (August Miilas, professor of botanics, bog expert), Aino Talvi (Mrs. Eeva Miilas), Gunnar Kilgas (the son Karl Miilas), Lia Laats (the daughter Lidia Miilas), Betty Kuuskemaa (Anna, the maid), Rudolf Nuude (Ants Kuslap, Anna's son, Soviet major), Andres Särev (Richard Miilas, doctor, the professor's nephew), Lembit Rajala (Ralf, the son of August Miilas from his first marriage), Boris Dobronravov (Golovin, a professor of medicine), Aleksandr Randviir (Heinast, a carpenter), Eduart Tinn (Lillak, a writer). Studio: Lenfilm (Leningrad). Exteriors: Tallinn (Schnelli park, Pirita-Kose). Tallinna premiere: 6.11.1947. Helsinki premiere: 12.11.1948 Royal, distributed by Kosmos-Filmi – VET 29243 – S – 2550 m / 93 min, 2472 m / 90 min. A Eesti Filmiarhiiv print with Finnish subtitles by Katri Hiovain and Katariina Suurpalo (Tuglas-seura) viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Propaganda in Soviet Estonian Cinema seminar), 7 September 2012. Comments after the screening: historian Hiljar Tammela.

A version re-recorded in the 1960s because the original Estonian soundtrack had been lost. The film was also released in Russian.

This Soviet propaganda film was the first Estonian feature film after WWII, and it was also the first Estonian feature film in 15 years. This kind of propaganda belonged to the class of desinformation. In this movie we see Estonians welcoming the Red Army as liberators and a neutral scientist giving up his neutrality willingly.

The movie is made professionally with a decent budget, good mise-en-scène, cinematography, lighting, editing, and production values, and talented actors. The sober approach to the narrative might have been thought to make the story easier to take. Images of Stalin are ubiquitous. The professor's oldest son Ralf turns out to be a former Nazi concentration camp leader, and when his father decides to denounce him Ralf tries to kill his father but luckily the son of the maid Anna, the Red Army major Ants, comes to the rescue and shoots Ralf.

The bog motif: professor August Miilas is a bog expert, and he has had a lifelong dream of turning bogs into fields, but first with the socialist system there is interest in his great plan which has been frustrated all his life, and first the socialist collective expresses respect to the professor's vision.

In his comments after the movie Hiljar Tammela analyzed the stereotypic characters of the movie (the Nazi, the major, the partisan, the bourgeois family, the siblings, and the neutral professor). He told about the play on which the movie is based. It was frequently produced as there was a shortage of propagandistic plays. August Jakobson became a top Stalinist playwright, afterwards a bureaucrat on a high formal post of the puppet parliament. Mr. Tammela told about the stereotypes of Nazis (arrogant but cultured) and Soviets (simple and uncultured). Stalinist art created a parallel existence, a non-existent world, a better tomorrow. In the aftermath of WWII victims of forced Sovietization were killed, injured, arrested, and impoverished, and there was widespread hope for a regime change. Lack of audience in theatres was a chronic problem. After Stalin's death the movie was forgotten for a decade and then screened now and then as a curiosity. Contemporary critics see some value in the performances of talented actors.

The visual quality of the print was often fine, and sometimes there was a sense that shots have been carefully reconstructed from inferior elements.

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