Sunday, September 24, 2023

Savvusanna sõsarad / Smoke Sauna Sisterhood

Anna Hints: Savvusanna sõsarad / Smoke Sauna Sisterhood (EE 2023).

Nature / Memory / Female Stories / Religion
Theme: Hear Me Roar!
Country: Estonia
Director: Anna Hints
Screenplay: Anna Hints
Starring: Kadi Kivilo
Production: Marianne Ostrat / Alexandra Film, Kepler 22 Production, Ursus Parvus
Duration: 89 min
Rating: K12
Kino-Palatsi 2, Love & Anarchy: Helsinki International Film Festival (HIFF), 24 Sep 2023

Susanna Puomio (HIFF 2023): " Savusaunan pehmeässä hämärässä naiset jakavat kipeimmät, yksityisimmät kokemuksensa. Savun, vasta kastellun vihdan ja kostean metsän tuoksuessa he pesevät pois toistensa hien, harmit, vihan ja murheet. "

" Sundancen elokuvajuhlilla ohjauksesta palkitun Anna Hintsin Savusaunasisaruus taltioi intiimisti ja intensiivisesti sekä naisten kipeitä kertomuksia että Unescon tunnustamaa eteläisen Viron Võron saunakulttuuria. Se kietoo yhteen voimakkaan keholliset kokemukset ja perinteet. Kuten saunomista, kerrontaa rytmittävät vuodenajoissa vilvoittelu ja kansanmusiikki. "

" Lauteilla lämmön pehmittämät saunojat vuoroin kertovat, vuoroin kuuntelevat. Joskus puhujan kasvot näkyvät, toisinaan eivät. Savun silitellessä kehoa mitä tahansa voi jakaa. Kaikkeen saa sielunsisarilta sympatiaa. Veden valuessa iholta noruvat harmitkin mieltä vaivaamasta. "

" Seitsemän vuoden aikana kuvatun dokumentin katse on lempeä, kirkas ja pelkistetty. Se on niin iholla, että saunan kokee, vaikkei itse löylyssä istukaan. Katsomoon asti tuntee, kuinka kosketus lohduttaa ja vesi pesee surusta tai häpeästä raskaita hartioita. Huuhtoo hien ja helpottaa. Lumi ja lampi raikastavat sen, minkä sauna jo puhdisti. " Susanna Puomio

Quoted by HIFF 2023: Allan Hunter: " A woodland sauna is refuge and confessional for a group of Estonian women in Smoke Sauna Sisterhood. Anna Hints’ affecting documentary uses a simple premise to capture an intimate, sympathetic portrait of women reflecting on profound personal and social issues around love, loss, self-esteem and the crushing straitjacket of a patriarchal society. " Allan Hunter, Screen Daily

Quoted by HIFF 2023: Jessica Kiang: " In a log-cabin sauna nestled in pretty woods by a lake, a setting straight off the top of a chocolate box, a group of women gather on and off through the changing seasons to sweat out their secrets and heal each other with heat, talk and arcane sauna-based rituals. It is a practise so specific to the Voro community of Estonia that it joins Cuba’s rum makers, Turkey’s coffee culture and suchlike on UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage List, a fact revealed at the end of Anna Hint’s lovely feature doc debut Smoke Sauna Sisterhood. And it feels exactly right, given that the small, smoky, steamy miracle of this film is how it creates something so intangible, so lyrical, from the absolutely elemental: fire, wood, water and lots of naked female flesh. " Jessica Kiang, Variety

Language: Estonian, Seto, Võro
Subtitles: English
Distribution: ELKE
Print source: ELKE
Cinematography: Ants Tammik
Editing: Qutaiba Barhamji, Anna Hints, Hendrik Mägars
Music: Eeter, Edvard Egilsson
Sound: Huldar Freyr Arnarson
In collaboration with Viron suurlähetystö Helsingissä

AA: Thirteen years ago, Joonas Berghäll and Mika Hotakainen released a film called Miesten vuoro [literally: Men's Shift] about men opening up in the sauna, a place where one may happen to make intimate confessions to perfect strangers. The film was very popular, and inevitably, some quipped that a sequel called Women's Shift would be even more popular.

Now such a film has been made, this time on the Southern coast of the Baltic Sea, in Estonia. Although the film is different from Miesten vuoro in many ways, the core concept of sauna as a site of confessions remains.

Everybody has a fundamental need to be seen as s/he really is, and the aspect of being without clothes is merely a detail in something more fundamental and profound.

Anna Hints and her marvellous sisterhood catch the idea perfectly. The film is beautiful, the women are beautiful as God intended, and there is a pantheistic sense of the nature - forest and lake - during the four seasons of the year.

The confessions start from the surface - women's ordeal of being judged by their appearances. Further topics include puberty and the first periods, motherhood (the film starts with a baby on her mother's breasts), dating, coming out as a woman who loves women, a woman's right to control her own body and childbirth, including the decision of abortion. The trauma of having a stillborn baby. Sexual violence emerges as a major topic, both in family history (why woman love men who hurt them) and being raped and the act of violence doubted and belittled even by one's own mother. The rape sequence is detailed and powerful although nothing is shown. We only hear the victim's account decades afterwards. I have started to call this the Shoah effect, as in Claude Lanzmann's masterpiece: get maximum impact by showing nothing.

The often traumatic confessions take place in the security of the smoke sauna, in its sacred atmosphere, in the middle of the nature which is covered in luminous cinematography in the four seasons.

The score and the soundtrack consist of old chants and folksongs. They are incantations and songs of exorcism carrying ancient traditions.


NB. On a similar concept, Nell Dunn wrote a play called Steaming (1981), and it was filmed in 1985 by Joseph Losey, based on a screenplay by Patricia Losey in collaboration with Nell Dunn. The stellar cast of women who meet regularly in a Turkish bath included Vanessa Redgrave, Sarah Miles, Diana Dors, Patti Love, Brenda Bruce, Felicity Dean and Sally Sagoe. I saw the film when it was released (in Finland straight to video) and found it very appealing. But Anna Hints's film is more powerful. It has also an aspect of coming to terms with Estonia's tragic history, a purgatory, a bit like in Sofi Oksanen's novel.

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