Sunday, May 11, 2008

Two Revolutions

I expect I'm the last Estonian blogger to mention something about the Laulev Revolutsioon film. I kept putting off seeing it, despite all the publicity and good reviews; I finally got the DVD when it came on sale in the supermarkets. Yes, I actually paid my 12 Euro for it.

The story told by the film is one that needs to be told, and I think I'd say that even if I had nothing to do with Estonia. It is a story of success, and an inspiration for anyone. Discussions of the Soviet Union's demise can take up a few blogs' worth of space on their own - the arms race spendathon, the Afghanistan war, the Warsaw Pact's obligation for financial assistance to Communist bloc states, etc. - but none of that diminishes the accomplishment of the Baltic states. There is an old short story, by someone famous I'm sure, about hunting dogs - how a pack of ferocious wolfhounds needs a single pitbull. When they have a wolf surrounded, the dogs know he's doomed - but none of them will attack, because the first dog to make a move will get badly hurt. So they need the single little pitbull, who is no match for the giant wolf, but he has no fear; he'll jump in first and distract the beast, so the hounds can finish the job. In the same way a decrepid empire can last for a long time, surrounded by hesitant enemies, until one brave soul goes for the throat.

The Singing Revolution, a film made by American expats, goes a long way to explaining the nature of Estonia's independence to people who might not have known much about it. In that, it serves a very important purpose; however, I could not help but feel that it was a bit shallow. It went into some detail about the actual mechanics of restoring the independence and the relationship between local and Moscow authorities; but not quite enough. There is a remarkable special, about an hour long, that was broadcast on the Kalev TV channel, which showed the process in great detail, and I seriously recommend it to anyone interested in politics, statesmanship and negotiations. (If any readers know the name of that film or can provide a link, I'd be very grateful.)

The other side of the story is the spirit. And here too there is a better example. The Tustys actually struck a very good balance for a film aimed at foreigners - they couldn't make it too intense, or it would throw off the audience. But if you're really interested in the sort of feeling that fuels a singing revolution, you need to watch the Revolution of Pigs.

There have been a number of big movie productions in Estonia in the decade. An interesting aspect is that the posh ones fail. The most painful Estonian movie in recent memory has been We Will Not Sleep Tonight, featuring a load of individual talent mixed together to create ninety minutes of wank. Fortunately, that same year it had an antithesis: a film made completely by amateurs, on pure enthusiasm and love of the art. With actors selected from an open casting call of regular schoolkids, and a crew that completely lacked pretension, they made something absolutely remarkable - a movie that was true.

Sigade Revolutsioon is actually based on a true story - the rebellion of a camp of teenagers in the 80s, bussed out to the countryside ostensibly for work duties. The film shows how the kids, apprehensive about their future, scared of conscription into the Soviet Army to go and die in Afghanistan, and tired of the bullshit spewed by their loyal Communist elders, decide to stop obeying the great machine. The beauty of the film is in the details, but the importance is in the story. The actual uprising of 1986 probably didn't quite happen like that, and the film does not furnish a happy ending; the Soviet Union is still stronger than any individual. But these kids look and feel real, and you know that five years from now, they will be at the foot of Tallinn's TV tower, standing together in front of the armoured combat vehicles of the Pskov Airborne Division. Our world's true heroes are the ones who will stare down the barrel of a gun unarmed, and say to the soldier who could murder them by the thousands: You Shall Not Pass.

The whole world knows the recipe - and effectiveness - of Mahatma Ghandi's revolution: first they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, and then you win. The problem with a Ghandi-style revolution is that you need a Ghandi to do it. The greatest message that you need to receive from these two films is that it was done by regular people. There was no Last Action Hero here, no Neo, and no V. The pitbull that went for the wolf's throat was an ugly little bastard. For all of its tanks, missiles and KGB firing squads, the Soviet Union was brought to its knees by a bunch of bearded geeks who simply said no.

Every country needs a revolution like that.


Kerli said...

There is a remarkable special, about an hour long, that was broadcast on the Kalev TV channel, which showed the process in great detail, and I seriously recommend it to anyone interested in politics, statesmanship and negotiations.

Do you mean Eestlased Kremlis?

It was wonderful.

Jens-Olaf said...

Yes, we've posted too about it. Though I like to single out Estonia, but the Singign Revolution was a three states thing whre the heat of tension went regulary from one to another with the peak in Lithuania. And there was a lot of cross action. Like the film motherland by Podnieks. RIP
Keep filming an article about his dieing collueges in Riga hit by bullets 1991:

Anonymous said...

The short story, hounds and pitbulls..

"Snap". Ernest Seton Thompson.

Great story.


| More