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BLACK NIGHTS 2023 Baltic Film Competition

Triin Ruumet • Director of Dark Paradise

“Bad things can be fun”


- The Estonian filmmaker makes a case for facing your fears as she follows two siblings who are dealing with grief in unusual ways

Triin Ruumet • Director of Dark Paradise

In Dark Paradise [+see also:
film review
interview: Triin Ruumet
film profile
, her second feature after The Days That Confused [+see also:
film review
interview: Triin Ruumet
film profile
, Estonian director Triin Ruumet takes a look at Karmen (Rea Lest) and her half-brother Victor (Jörgen Liik), both dealing with their father’s passing in rather unusual ways. They turn to sex, violence and people who don’t really have their best interests at heart. Then again, who said there is only one way to grieve? Ruumet tells us more about her movie, screened in Tallinn Black Nights’ Baltic Film Competition.

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Cineuropa: You really go for it in this film. Suddenly, grief leads to mayhem, odd rituals and looking for intimacy in very unusual places.
Triin Ruumet:
It’s a bit disturbing, so I guess for some people, Dark Paradise can be hard to digest. That said, disturbing experiences can serve as a gateway to something new. We can find out something about ourselves that we tried to ignore before. Everyone has to experience dark periods in their life: I don’t think you can find even one person who has managed to completely avoid it. It’s hard, of course, but hopefully going through that can teach us something valuable.

To me, it’s a story about looking for something. Karmen certainly is. She wants to feel something, anything.
There is this desire to find yourself, actually, to get in touch with your inner self again, even when it’s not easy. For a while, she is so lost. There are so many things we don’t want to see, and it’s interesting when we are suddenly forced to face them. Karmen’s brother Victor symbolises that struggle. These issues just keep on coming, over and over again, until we learn to acknowledge them. It’s quite simple: you have to face your fears, because only then is there a slight chance they will finally go away.

I would call what you are doing “baroque” filmmaking: you are not limiting yourself by trying to make things subtle. Was that freeing in any way?
I guess baroque is one of the key words here, and it was on my mind, too. If I had to describe my inner world to someone, that’s what I would call it as well. This kind of style just comes naturally to me, although I don’t know if my next film will be like this as well. Maybe I will go somewhere else? Maybe I will go full [avant-garde artist Kazimir] Malevich?

Were your actors hoping to show a softer side of their characters? Or did they understand this is not who these people ultimately are and they don’t have to be likeable?
We were talking a lot about Karmen and Victor’s mentality and their psychology, but we never cared about making them more likeable. For some viewers, it could be a problem – it’s hard to empathise with Karmen, for example, who can come across as passive-aggressive. She is dealing with depression and has been hiding everything inside for the longest time. But I believe you can make films without thinking this way. After all, there are moments in our lives when we don’t even like ourselves!

These darkly comic moments had to be there because otherwise, it would have been too tragic, but I never felt pressured to create some comic relief just to take some of this pain away. It happened this way, already during writing [Ruumet wrote the film with Andris Feldmanis and Livia Ulman], and at this point, I have learnt to trust my gut feeling.

Along the way, these two come across many peculiar characters. Was it hard to make sure that all of these encounters still belonged to one universe?
All of these characters had pretty complex backgrounds, although they were known only to me and the actors. We knew much more than what we ultimately show on the screen. It’s part of this “baroque” way of thinking again: they remain unexplained. I like it when things aren’t immediately clear. I like mystery, also in people. There is some truth to it because you never fully know other people. I would go even further: many people don’t know who they are.

Remembering your previous film, you seem interested in the time when people are still figuring things out. Why do you think that’s the case?
I guess it’s because I am also still figuring things out. These are not autobiographical films, but I am dissecting my own battles in them as well. All of these dark questions and feelings had to come from somewhere.

Speaking of darkness – it’s a dark film also in a visual sense. I don’t think there are any bright colours or direct sunlight.
I wanted them to be muted but also luscious, like in the case of these deep-reddish burgundy shades. I wanted it to feel like a closed universe, a bit isolated…

…And a bit seductive?
Before you start doing something bad, usually, you already know it’s not good for you. But you still want to do it. Why? Because bad things can be fun.

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