This movie is about the Estonian War of Independence (1918-1920), specifically the students fighting on the nationalist side, but also shown the conflict between two ideologies (Estonian nationalism and communism).
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Malev is a film that is hardly enjoyable when you have the wrong expectations, I experienced that myself. But if you already know what expects you, you can look over certain things and concentrate on others.
There are two things in particular that have an especially disenchanting effect, namely the pacing and the subtleness. The pacing is awkward, there's no rhythm, no dynamic, no development. The film is slow, repetitive and without any sense of proportion. And as for the subtleness, there isn't any. If you were to define the word "crude", a reference to this film would give an excellent example.
So, keep that in mind when watching this film and don't get too angry over it. There are three people portrayed in this film, the French, the Germans and the Estonians. The crudeness of this portray has to be ignored in order to see a pretty interesting structure there, namely that within these people we have in each case two kinds of people, those who are actually doing something and those who are just enjoying their own magnificence. Lots of the humour lies just in the clash of these two fractions (mostly within the Estonians, to a lesser degree also within the Germans) and while the film is absolutely devoid of subtleness, it is in a very infantile way truthful in its depiction.
To see that is a bit difficult though, who looks in a film for psychological accuracy, when the film starts with declaring the French a nation of frog eaters, the Germans a nation of Hitler doubles and the Estonians...? Well, at least they fall under different regional stereotypes, but they are all as sophisticated as those about the Germans and the French. Yet the film reduces its protagonists pretty accurately to their infancy, viewed as children they exhibit an almost credible behaviour.
So, Malev is, I hate to say that, better than it seems on first disgusted glance.
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