The story takes place in 1972, city of Kaunas, former Socialist Republic of Lithuania (now just Lithuania). The events coincide with famous self-immolation of dissident Romas Kalanta, which really took place and was hidden from wider public until the collapse of Soviet Union. The main plot however is fictional and centers on a group of young theater actors determined to show a play which contains not so subtle patriotic messages to free the country.
We, Lithuanians, seem to really like making sad books and movies, full of internal drama - and this is a good example. Staying true to this tradition, there is not a single comic relief in this 2 hour length feature film. However if you look closely, you would notice that the entire underlying system (Soviet rule) was a joke.
Western depictions often tend to show Soviet Union (and now Russia) in some sort of romantic light. The truth is that there was nothing romantic about it, ever. It was a system designed to rape people of their humanity and to propagate for no apparent reason. Emilia's movie tries to evoke this feeling by showing insane evil guys chasing a poor defenseless girl. It certainly adds to drama, but is not very realistic. Actual circumstances of the times were a lot more bleak and boring. I wish this feature would have taken a more subtle approach, showing the faceless and constant self-betrayal of values that really drove the people insane.
In Lithuania we do not have a big movie industry, therefore most of the actors came straight from the theater stage. This is very apparent, as most of the performances are static. Same expressions, limited movements, long monologues. These are not necessary bad, but probably quite different from what you're accustomed to in cinema. Luckily some awkwardness is offset by the fine work of operator - we can enjoy some good character angles and beautiful scenes of Kaunas city.
Overall this movie is not an Oscar material, but it has some unique flavor, which sets it apart. It reminded me the value of individual and social freedom, something that most people, even who know nothing of the events depicted, can still relate to. Therefore a recommended watch.
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