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Daisy Petal Game II: Three for the price of one

by Laurence Boyce

12/02/2013 - Three Estonian short films about the tribulations of love and living are packaged into a feature film

Daisy Petal Game II: Three for the price of one

While portmanteau films are typically a tough sell for audiences, they are also often the only way in which they can view short films theatrically outside of the festival circuit. Some – such as Paris Je t'aime – make a virtue of the star directors that are involved while others – including The Joy of Six, recently released theatrically in the UK by Soda Pictures – push the fact that you can check out those directors who will (hopefully) be huge names in the cinema’s future.

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As a comparatively small country, Estonia produces a healthy amount of short films – especially through the Baltic Film and Media School – and new theatrical release Daisy Petal Game II (Karikakramäng II) represents a fresh attempt to bring those films to wider audience. With a mixture of new talent and established stars both in front and behind the camera, the film provides an intriguing trio of movies that focus upon love and relationships.

The first film is Thank You For Happening To Me (Dir. Elina Naan), a gorgeously wrought story of two men who go on a trip to the country with their girlfriends only to find themselves falling for each other. Director Naan is obviously a talent to watch suffusing the story with dappled sunlight and beautiful visuals and creating a story of first love that manages to avoid melodrama and hold the interest. The next story, The Photo (Dirs. Jan-Erik Nõgisto and Katrin Maimik), follows thirty-something Maarit (Helen Ehandi) – trapped into a dull domestic routine by her disabled father (Arvo Kukumägi)  - as she begins a strange relationship with a nine-year-old-boy. With an aesthetic reminiscent of British Social Realism, the film is a subtle affair that examines our reactions to loneliness and explores ideas of what is appropriate. With a stunning central performance from Ehandi, this is perhaps the most accomplished film of the bunch. The final film Silver Wedding (Dirs. Andres Maimik and Katrin Maimik) continues the feel of British Social Realism as it channels the dark humour redolent in the work of Mike Leigh as a couple celebrate their silver wedding and reveal the hidden secrets that both divide and cement their relationship.

As often with these types of films, it can often feel rather disjointed (especially as there is no specific  linking narrative between the three films) but the loose themes of love, relationships and hidden emotions that run throughout the films provide an emotional thread to proceedings while the gradual aging of the protagonists in each segment also provides a certain narrative impetus. Certainly each film is striking in its own way and all three provide an entertaining and understated blend of drama and deadpan Baltic humour.  

With established stars of Estonian cinema (including director Andres Maimik and legendary actor Arvo Kukumägi) nestling comfortably alongside some shining new talents, this should provoke the interest of local audiences during its theatrical release (the films is currently screening at cinemas across the country). Internationally the films will most likely do better as individual shorts on the festival circuit than as a package. But, if anyone does check out these out in their feature form then they will be rewarded with three compelling Estonian films that from a fine feature.

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