Saturday, September 08, 2012

Valge laev / The White Ship

Заблудшие / [Valkea laiva]. EE-SU = Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic 1971. PC: Kinostuudio Tallinnfilm. P: Kalju Komissarov, Jüri Garšnek, Rein Raamat. D: Kalju Komissarov. SC: Vladimir Vladimirov (Vladimir Vaintšok), Pavel Finn. DP: Jüri Garsnek – colour – scope 2,35:1. PD: Rein Raamat. Set dec: Oleg Kurg. SFX: B. Aretski, L. Aleksandrovskaja. Cost: Piia Järvela, Ell-Maaja Rand-küla. Makeup: Helve Sikk. M: Eino Tamberg. M performed by: Eesti Televisiooni ja Raadiokomitee Estraadiorkester. Conductor: Eri Klas. Consulting colonel: H. Margus = Endel Miller. Filmi direktor: Veronika Bobossova. C: Enn Kraam (Juhan), Katrin Kumpan (Linda), Kalju Komissarov (Enn), Ago Roo (Olev), Tõnu Tepandi (Heino), Tõnu Mikiver (Jakob), Einari Koppel (Rudolf Talgre), Gunnar Kilgas (llmar), Aarne Üksküla (Barry), Mikk Mikiver (Matti). Loc: Stockholm (Sergelstorget, Millesgården), Lidingö, Pirita harbour. Tallinn premiere: 29.3.1971. The film was not released in Finland. 2474 m / 90 min. An Eesti Filmiarhiiv print with Russian subtitles and electronic subtitles in Finnish by Tuula Irene Friman (Tuglas-seura) viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Propaganda in Soviet Estonian Cinema seminar), 8 September 2012. Comments after the screening by the historian Ivo Juurvee.

Propaganda as desinformation: benign KGB agents help young Estonian dissidents in Stockholm after the ex-SS officer Talgre, now on the CIA payroll, has cheated Linda to marry him and captured and tortured Linda's boyfriend Juhan while pretending to Linda that Juhan has defected to Africa.

This movie was little seen by the Estonian audiences, and a lack of conviction is the fundamental feeling conveyed by Valge laev. Yet it is well made: the direction, the acting, the cinematography, the production values, and the location shooting are at least on a good professional level.

In international spy movies of the 1960s and the 1970s there was a general feeling of disenchantment. Perhaps unintentionally here, the feeling is of going through the motions with the ideology while having fun with the cinematic resources.

The early Soviet Estonian propaganda films Elu tsitadellis and Valgus Koordis were traditional, straightforward, well-made movies. Valge laev and Metskannikesed were movies in tune with their new and different times, with modernist and broken narratives. All people seem ill at ease. "You hate the Soviet regime, yet it is engraved in your being".

The villain Rudolf Talgre is a cynical villain, an alcoholic womanizer. There is some juicy blunt dialogue. Ulla: "You have had many women from many countries". Rudolf: "I am always alone". Rudolf has let operate his SS tattoo away from his arm. After Rudolf succeeds in marrying Linda, Ulla provides Linda with precise instructions how to handle Rudolf. The delicious sequence is like from a Lubitsch movie. "Linda is my Estonia, weak and suffering". When the past and the double agent role of Rudolf Talgre are exposed he has to leave Sweden, and the only things he packs into his suitcase are bundles of banknotes, an SS uniform, and a revolver. We see Rudolf driving recklessly on a freeway. Juhani loses his sanity, perhaps as a result of the assault and battery of Rudolf. Linda's radio message to Estonians: "Mul on suuri mure" ("My sadness is great").

Strikingly, there is no negative distortion in the location shooting of Stockholm where most of the movie was shot. In the bar scene the label of the Fanta bottle is turned to the camera. Swedish people seem happy and carefree and they indulge in hippie meetings and socialist demonstrations ("Fight Monopoly Capital"). One meeting of the secret agents takes place at Millesgården. There is a picturesque quality, as if the movie had been shot for the Swedish Tourist Board. But Estonians were not allowed to visit Sweden.

The poem central to the movie about the white boat of hope is interesting and eloquent.

In his comments after the movie Ivo Juurvee stated that Valge laev was a KGB production. - The White Ship is a traditional Estonian metaphor for waiting for a single event that would solve all problems but that never happens. - The movie is based on reality, on an actual escape by Eugen Adrik and Hilda Proobal in 1957. - Western radio stations provided constant headache for the Soviets. There were broadcasts in Estonian and Russian. The Soviet regime aimed at an absolute monopoly of information. They fought the Western broadcasts by silencing, jamming, and undermining. - Ivo introduced the major artists behind the movie: the director-actor Kalju Komissarov (Enn, the poet), Mikk Mikiver (Matti: KGB), Aarne Üksküla (Barry Rose: CIA), Einari Koppel (Talgre: VOA-CIA-SS), Tõnu Kilgas (Ilmar, journalist-KGB agent), Katrin Kumpan (Linda: from obedience to independence). - The location selection of Lidingö was an inside joke as KGB knew that Western agents were trained on Lidingö. - The KGB advisors were top officers in Estonia. - The Moscow screenwriters did not know any Estonian. They were responsible for the ideologically correct frame. - The production was quite expensive. It was the only Soviet Estonian movie shot abroad, and one of the few Soviet movies shot abroad. It was shown for only two weeks in Tallinn. - The Western lifestyle was depicted to be very appealing, even better than reality.

The visual quality of the print was quite nice, sometimes with a slightly duped look.

No comments: