TALLINN - In a country where national cinema doesn't necessarily grow on trees, every new feature film is a major event. They are welcomed like long-overdue houseguests, lavished with attention and reason to celebrate. Whether the films deserve such hoopla is beside the point.
The Estonian/German co-production "Korini!" (German title "Schnauze Voll") is no exception. Estonian Director Peter Simm, who began shooting on March 30, describes his film with an original tagline: "When there's no way out, you should count on your enemy because he knows you as good as your mother does."
"Korini!," which is an Estonian colloquial exclamation that means "I am fed up with everything," follows German truck driver Kaminsky (played by Heio von Stetten) on his final trip to Estonia. Each kilometer brings Kaminsky closer to the end of his life as a highway vagabond-to the end of his life, period.
The protagonist leaves for the Baltic state with the intention to commit suicide. Yet, he has some cleaning up to do first, namely paying off an old debt. Along the way Kaminsky meets Stella, an Estonian cello player; Hunt, a good-for-nothing bank robber; and Manfred, a hearse driver. Between these encounters and Kaminsky's final journey, the film hopes to bring light to one man's dark story.
Freelance Estonian actress Maarja Jakobson, who plays Stella, and Estonian Drama Theater's Rasmus Kaljujarv, who struggles to communicate through a mix of German, English, Estonian and sign language as Hunt, make up half the key cast.
"It is a strange story, not a commercial style one, and I like it. There's humor in it that comes from natural human relations," said German actor Thomas Schmauser, who plays Manfred the hearse chauffer.
Schmauser has mostly done theater acting in Hamburg. Yet his experience will show through in Manfred, the unhappy weirdo who struggles to readjust to life after recently leaving jail. Ironically, Schmauser played in another death-related movie, "The Undertaker's Paradise," released five years ago.
Simm, who directed the Latvian/Estonian co-production "The Good Hands" in 2001 and six other full-length feature films since 1977, including one children's film, used old university connections to jumpstart his latest movie. One of the film's three scriptwriters is Hans-Werner Honert, head of the German Saxonia Media concern who studied film together with Simm in Moscow decades ago.
The movie will be shot in 27 days in Estonia, Germany and onboard the Tallinn-St. Petersburg-Rostok ferry.
With a budget of 1.2 million euros, "Korini!" will likely become the most expensive Estonian film ever made until "Lotte," another domestic production, hits the screens sometime in the near future.
The film's premiere in Estonia is scheduled for Oct. 27, 2005, and the first major international screening will take place at the next year's Berlinale festival.
Meanwhile, the Baltic state's film industry seems to be slowly recovering from a financial and creative crisis. In autumn 2005, work on a movie based on "Rehepapp," the ultra-popular book by Andrus Kivirahk, will commence. The film team received about 160,000 euros in financing from the Eurimages cinema support foundation.