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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Helena Maria Reisner,
Year 1208. The first Eastward enlargement of Europe is under way. Brutal forces of the Teutonic Order are steadily marching on. In their path live a simple and peaceful people, whose main pastimes include cultivating the earth, singing and, if possible, doing both at the same time. They are the Estonians. Ignorant in the ways of war, they find an unlikely leader in a young boy with Catholic upbringing. In their fight for freedom, the Estonians encounter numerous obstacles, including the Germans, French, Russians and, worst of all, the Latvians. Will they succeed in defeating their enemies or will they experience a cultural awakening?Written by
The earliest history of what is now Estonia was written by a monk called Henry of Latvia. This film's subtitle is "Henry of Latvia Lied!" In the 13th century, German crusaders conquered Estonia and essentially ran the place from elegant manor houses until the collapse of the Russian Empire in 1917.
This movie tells a very alternate -- and very funny -- version of how this came to be.
There are, unfortunately for us outsiders, more than a few inside jokes. For instance, it helps to know that the people of Estonia's largest island, Saaremaa, are seen by mainlanders as pseudo-Scandinavian rustics with a sort of Muppets' Swedish Chef accent. Comic allusions to the European Union may fly over the heads of people not familiar with EU politics. It's also helpful to know that turning to Russia for help in the past has typically proved not to be such a bright idea.
At the same time, I'm sure I don't need to explain why the French Knights Templar lust after Estonia's "natural resources" (swamp frogs). Or why the German knights all have little brush mustaches.
Some of the humor may be a little gory or crude for some tastes. There is a small amount of full frontal male nudity (swimming/bathing), if you prefer to be warned about such things. Though the performances are by and large outstanding, the script opens the odd loophole here and there that it never gets around to closing. Worst of all, as often happens with foreign films, the English subtitles all too often fall flat on the job. (Who quality controls these things, anyway??)
Still, if you like loopy absurdist humor of the Monty Python variety, you can't help but get a kick out of this likable and surprisingly well-made film from a tiny and beautiful country on the northern edge of Europe.
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