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KARLOVY VARY 2014 East of the West

Cherry Tobacco: The scent of first love


- The Estonian film deals with growing up and first love, with a strong emphasis on the senses

Cherry Tobacco: The scent of first love

Cherry Tobacco [+see also:
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, by Estonian writing-directing duo Katrin Maimik (her first feature film) and Andres Maimik (his third), world-premiered in Karlovy Vary’s East of the West competition. The story of the growing-up and sexual maturation of a teenage girl is executed in a traditional, linear fashion, but well-shaped characters provide it with an engaging development, despite the somewhat overstretched middle section.

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Seventeen-year-old Laura (talented debutant Maris Nõlvak), bored and frustrated with her mother, school and a likeable, but not very interesting, suitor, accepts her friend Merit's (Getter Meresmaa) invitation to go on a hike to a bog. The forty-something guide, Joosep (Gert Raudsep), puts them and an elderly couple (a source of some understated but effective comic moments) on a bus and drives them to the marshes.

Laura is at first not impressed by the freewheeling guide, with his annoyingly self-satisfied love of nature and hipster-esque habit of smoking cherry tobacco in a pipe, but she cannot deny his charm and eventually falls for him. No actual sexual contact is shown in the film, but the directors cleverly build a tension between them through an occasional brush of hands, or in an affectionate scene in a small tent when Laura chastely takes off her shirt so he can put it on instead of his soaked one.

Laura finally sees that her first love will not be fulfilled when she learns that Joosep is married. Nevertheless, she has experienced a new, powerful emotion, and it will stay with her forever through the scent of cherry tobacco, a love song by a Polish performer whom Joosep adores, the memory of the feeling of slowly sinking into soft bog mud as Joosep picks her up and carries her over to firm ground…

The fact that Laura has not got what she wanted, but rather what she needed, wraps the film up in a satisfyingly bittersweet fashion, just like first love should feel in retrospect to anyone who has experienced it.

Although the middle section of the film feels a little too long and would work better if the narrative was more compressed, this is an affectionate and sincere work that speaks about growing up and learning about love, emphasising physical senses such as smell and hearing. Nothing brings back the memory of emotions quite like scents and music. 

Cherry Tobacco was produced and is handled by Tallinn-based Kuukulgur Film

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