Veiko Õunpuu • Director
“Being trapped in a society that can’t muster up any positive values”
by Laurence Boyce
- Encounter with the Estonian director who deciphers Free Range and offers a striking view on today's culture and cinema.
Veiko Õunpuu: The origins lie in the feeling of being trapped in a society that can’t muster up any positive values whatsoever, whatever the purpose or dire need may be. Family values? Being caught in the smallest economical unit of possessive egotism and mutual dependency that mainly functions as an incubator for the fresh workforce? Or self-realisation through a rewarding career? Fucking other people over for profits while destroying the planet? Love of one’s country? Passively participating in atrocities in some far away country that has nothing to do with you and watching those atrocities turn into a form of macabre entertainment for the rest of the "free" world? The feeling behind these questions. This was the premise for the film. The questions themselves seemed too obvious for further elaboration in the form of a film.
Obviously, the film seems extremely personal. How did you go about casting Lauri Lagle in the lead role. Was it easy or difficult to find the right person?
The film is not based on my personal experiences, but of course it is kind of personal. We tried out a couple of different people, but when we came to Lauri it was pretty apparent that he was right for the role. He has a sort of evasive and non-confrontational stubbornness about him that was perfect.
How do you think the film fits into the current vein of Estonian filmmaking and what’s your current view on modern Estonian cinema?
We can speak of national cinemas only in the case of differentiated cultures, where the active component is the search for the specifics of those cultures and not the search for the lowest common denominators as it is mostly the case. Maybe with the exception of Iran and Bhutan, there practically is no national cinema anymore, just an English-speaking centre and different kinds of peripheries, that are copying the methods and modes of the centre. Which of course does not have to be a bad thing in itself.
It is quite remarkable though that we can be proud of our own cinema only in as much as it reminds us of the cinema of the centre. But the centre is hollow and has nothing truly interesting to offer. It only exists because it feeds on the constant influx from the periphery.
I’ve come to think about how funny it is that this whole industry caters to a widespread habit of subjecting one's self to an entirely unconscious identification with a made up personality (most often endowed with destiny, superhuman sex appeal and an unfailing ability to overcome adversity) while that identification ends up with a fake re-establishing of yourself as a morally valid entity with no real effort on your own part. The whole thing seems to be, if not outright pathological, at least antisocial in essence. The fact that it is generally accepted as normal, and encouraged even by public funds; the fact that the success of this phenomena is measured with its popularity or crazier still, the financial gain that it creates, and that we here, on the periphery, long for nothing less than our very own industry of "proper entertainment" that would have similar effects, function with similar success, and generate similar profits, well that just makes me wonder.
I would like to fit into this only while wearing the white robe of a psychiatrist. But I admit a masochistic fantasy; it might be quite tempting to be fed to the centre, to be digested by it and to be shat out again. That would be a wholehearted participation in the functioning of the contemporary world
What do you have planned next?
There is a project in the Berlinale co-production market called The Last One that tells the straightforward story of a young skinhead working in a mine in Lapland. I’m also writing a script for a project called Language of the Birds. Medieval mystics propose that through seemingly random events in our lives there is someone speaking to us in a divine, pure, violent and incomprehensible language – the language of the birds.
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