The Days That Confused: A bold image of the nineties in Estonia
by Vladan Petkovic
- KARLOVY VARY 2016: Young female director Triin Ruumet has made a film about the macho culture of the nineties
Young Estonian director Triin Ruumet's first feature film, The Days That Confused [+see also:
interview: Triin Ruumet
film profile], had its international premiere in Karlovy Vary's East of the West. Set in rural Estonia in the 1990s, the movie uses strong language and visuals, loud music and rowdy behaviour to describe an era that represented a breaking point in most Eastern European societies.
When the first image is that of a hand wiping blood off a BMW hood with the jacket of a white Adidas tracksuit, you have a pretty good idea of the kind of film you are in for. But it is interesting that this one was directed by a young woman, who was only 12 when the era ended.
The main character, Allar (Hendrik Toompere), is a 27-year-old guy who spends his days hanging out with friends, speeding drunk on the roads of a forested, rural region in South Estonia, partying wildly and doing his best to put on a macho show in front of girls. After one such ride, the car flips over on a bend and ends up on its roof. The men crawl out, bloodied but apparently not seriously harmed.
Allar drifts off into the woods and suddenly wakes up in a puddle near a lake. On the shore, the BMW from the first scene is parked, doors open, the blood-stained tracksuit hanging from a window, blasting loud electronic music. In the lake, turned with his back to him, stands Juulius (Juhan Ulfsak), a henchman for a local mob boss who detects talent and restlessness in Allar, and takes him under his wing.
At home, Allar's father wants him to become a carpenter or a woodsman, which is terribly boring to the young man. But in fact, it is actually the woods themselves that even the mob deals in – in the nineties in Estonia, stealing trees from state-owned forests was big business, so being a "normal", legal lumberjack is totally uncool. And when his father loses a finger in an accident with an electric saw, Allar seems to feel a mix of contempt and pity for his dad.
Ruumet's film is impressive technically, and the cast does a great job. There are a couple of hazy sequences, depicting dreamy or drug-induced states, which are very effective. And if the film seems to lead nowhere, this is because the characters' lives are exactly like that – except that Allar at least displays a wish to fight for his future.
The Days That Confused was produced and is handled internationally by Tallinn-based Kinosaurus Film.