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Film demonstrates Lithuanian artistry

  • 2000-02-17
  • By Elina Cerpa
Algimantas Puipa's lyrical "Elza's Life" is a film that attracts superlatives. It was the only film from the Baltics presented at the Berlin International Film Festival. But who is Puipa? Elina Cerpa charts the uneasy rise of Lithuanian film.

Baltic Films in Berlin

In Lithuania he is a star film-maker. Bureaucrats give him money, critics' give him prizes and fans give their attraction. But Baltic films haven't made it into the Berlin International Film Festival before. This year Algimantas Puipa's, "Elza's life" reached Berlin's screens and critics attention. I met film director Algimantas Puipa shortly before his arrival in Berlin. He has just finished the film but hasn't yet seen it on the big screen himself.

What does he expect from the Berlin International Film Festival?

"I would like to see interest in my film and some critiques. Mostly what I expect is to meet those people on whom rests an independent film maker's destination - producers. Interest in my next project and maybe my new film will help me to use the least money possible for my next project from the Lithuanian Ministry of Culture. My dream is to be not dependent on Lithuanian money."

Approximately 3,000 journalists from more than 60 countries are covering in newspapers, magazines, radio and television worldwide at the Berlin International Film Festival from Feb. 9-20. It is one of the leading international film festivals alongside the Cannes and Venice Festivals. It is notable for many film makers. The "Berlinale" has "discovered" a large number of directors like Jean-Luc Godard, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Michelangelo Antonioni and the new Andrejs Tarkovsky; Aleksander Sokurov as well as many others.

The Berlinale's important section is the competition which presents a wide range of films from all over the world. This year, 21 feature films are in the competition which reflects today's world production.

Among appointed jury members is film director Andrzej Wajda, who has directed over 30 films. This year, the festival will screen his latest film " Pan Tadeusz - The Last Foray in Lithuania" of course, out of competition. Puipa is in the competition together with Wim Wenders, Milos Forman, Danny Boyle and other known directors.

Puipa does not deny that this time he and screenwriter Vytautas Zalakevicius had a plan to find a story interesting for foreign film companies as well. The film demonstrates Lithuanian capabilities, and it is a good introduction of their facilities in the International Berlin's Film Festival.

"Elza's Life"is a Lithuanian and German co-production. Most of the money has involved Lithuania, but what is important for Baltic film-makers is distribution.

Typical Lithuanian film

In "Landscape," a person walks for a long, long time. Standing by the tree for three minutes. Beautiful faces of women and men, beautiful landscapes and a rather boring story. "Probably that is a typical Lithuanian film" characteriziced Puipa. And not surprisingly, it has provoked a much stronger response than the latest gun-happy fantasy or the silence of dusty realism. We are clearly talking about "great art" here - and an implicit reproach to the tawdry compromises of much contemporary cinema.

His new film is reflected in the horizon of specific reality.

Puipa always prefers visualization. The story is told in a very unusual way and is an adaptation from the motifs of Wiechert's short story of the 19th century. He was a prosecutor in a lonely village where the greater part of the film is set You can recognize what Lithuanians used to call Lithuania Minor which used to be a part of the Prussian Kingdom. The 19th century in Puipa's film is portrayed by It seems to be very different from his earlier works where the overriding mood is one of stillness and serenity. Sometimes it seems that a scene will last an eternity.

Knowing the current situation of the Lithuanian film is dependent on poor finances and a difficult economical situation, so far Puipa has made 14 future feature films. "Eternal light" was the first of Puipa's films to be seen widely outside the festival circuits, and it is a compelling mixture of the physical and methaphysical attracted admirers.

Puipa's path to becoming a director has been anything but conventional by Soviet standards. He was born in 1951 in Antalipste, at that time in Soviet Lithuania. He began making amateur films, for which he received prizes at, among others, the Brno film festival. He began studying film at the Moscow film school, VGIK, graduating in 1974. Has been working as a director at the Lithuanian film studio in Vilnius ever since.

The 70s is known as the "era of stagnation," when the Soviet Union slumbered under Brezhnevs rule, With the stimulation of the early 60s " thaw" no more than a fading memory and a spreading cynicism as everyday Soviet citizens observed the expanding gap between the official expressiveness that accompanied terrestrial posturing and their dingy lives. But behind closed doors, these lives were often far from dingy. This was a period of intense inner life for many Soviet artists and intellectuals.