Order the summer edition here

Revolutionary film movement

Baltic movie days: Bridges of Time
Regissør: Kristine Briede & Audrius Stonys

Bridges of Time is a tribute to the directors who shaped the poetic documentary tradition in the Baltic; a revolutionary film movement that fought for human freedom during the occupation of the Soviet Union.


This year, the Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia celebrate 100 years as independent states. This despite the period of Soviet domination which they shook off in the 90 century, when they participated in the revolutionary movement that ended the communist rule in the region. Knowing that the time couldn't be better, director Kristin Briede made the film Bridges of Time; a tribute to the Baltic tradition of poetic documentary, which arose in part to express opposition to the material conditions of political repression and the propaganda lies of the state film industry. The film provides an overview of the pioneers of the world-renowned tradition, who from the 60 century onwards developed a film language with a lyrical and spiritual approach. A cinematic form carried by the confidence that images can give access to something essential beyond the language, and which gently restores human dignity by affirming their inner freedom and personal transcendence.

Metaphysical reflection

Briede initially contacted Audrius Stonys, a Latvian director who is the foremost exponent of the tradition of our time, to interview him, but he ended up as co-director of the film. Although he hides completely behind the camera, his philosophical meditations and exhilarating imagery help throughout the work to be inspired by his ideal: to awaken wonder and lead a contemplative "fight against time", without explaining or pushing the characters into a linear narrative. Although metaphysical reflection is emphasized at the expense of easily digestible facts,Bridges of Timea unique and complete overview of these failed Baltic master directors.

Bridges of Timeer a unique portrait of the Baltic master directors.

Stony's teacher Henrikas Sablevicius is no longer alive, but in archive clips he talks about changes that are spun out of the fleeting movements of the time – ponderings that go to the heart of the tradition. This is hardly surprising, given the existential unrest that accompanies small countries that have often been victims of the whims of aggressive, large neighbors. At this point, the influence on Stony's own views is obvious, when he says that "even that which seems unshakable, majestic and eternal changes." His generation, which includes the filmmaker Robertas Verba, made films in Lithuania in the 60s and 70s and portrayed marginal rural originals who lived in areas that were spared Soviet modernization. Their films were depictions both of a freer nature and of people who longed to mentally overcome and reject the iron grip of ideology, which through the occupation threatened to break down local lifestyles. Sablevicius A journey across meadows in fogis among his most famous and was made as a farewell to the Siarukas, a slow narrow-gauge train, at a time when the life forms that had grown up around the dead were gone. Somewhere in Bridges of Timethe camera glides over huge Soviet-style apartment blocks, which with their towering enormity seem to overshadow the entire natural landscape these filmmakers had filmed with such palpable tenderness.

Watch the trailer here:

The Baltic pioneers

The interviews with the Baltic film pioneers are all enriched by inserted clips from their film work. Without the titles being announced, they flow together and become part of a larger whole; the camaraderie between the filmmakers who are united in spirit, and who in their own way reflect the whole of the universe of which they were a part. Latvia is explored through the work of Uldis Brauns, Aivars Freimanis, Ivars Seleckis and Herz Frank. The latter died in Jerusalem, which Briede and Stonys visit on a sort of pilgrimage; a journey that emphasizes the mysterious attraction they have in their way of understanding their world. An excerpt from Franks Ten minutes older(1978) revolves around the poetic documentary as a means of arousing wonder, by not only focusing on a performance at a puppet theater, but in detail depicting the face of the little boy watching.

Metaphysical reflection is emphasized at the expense of easily digestible facts.

These directors' skepticism of speech and dialogue, which is partly a symptom of their disillusionment in the face of state propaganda, refers us instead to interpret human faces – distinctive and endlessly varied. Andreas Söots The 511 best images of Mars(1968) captures the faces of guests at a café in Tallinn, without them knowing they are being watched. It acts as an ode to the indomitability of individuality, from a tradition which – devoid of belief in the Soviet model citizen – highlights ravaged everyday souls.

Mark Soosaar, who made anthropological studies of the customs of an Estonian island in A woman from Kihnu(1973) also consider the film's relationship to time. He claims that all films reflect their moment and that it is thus impossible to create art for future generations, since "we have no idea how fast they will think".

Bridges of Timeappears as a document for posterity.

Still appears Bridges of Timeas a document for posterity: it captures the voices and the artistic heritage of the film pioneers who are still alive and can bear witness to it, and who can remember their contemporaries who have now walked the heath. This makes an impression, especially at a time when a more capitalist mentality characterized by renewal and constant replacement is taking over their countries. Bridges of Timeponders what is about to be lost today, as the Western consumer culture that flooded with the fall of the Soviet Union – and which grows with EU membership – begins to shape the new generations in its own image.

You're watching the movie Baltic Film Days
at the Cinematheque in Oslo on Sunday 20 October at 15.00.

avatar photos
Carmen Gray
Gray is a regular film critic in Ny Tid.

You may also like