This article provides a survey of Soviet animation and analyses the thematic and stylistic course of its development. Soviet animated film emerged and materialised in synch with the fluctuations of the region’s political climate and was directly shaped by it. A number of trends and currents of Soviet animation also pertain to other Eastern European countries. After all, Eastern Europe constituted an integrated cultural space that functioned as a single market for the films produced across it by filmmakers who interacted in a professional regional network of film education, events, festivals, publications etc.
Initially experimental, post-revolutionary Russian animation soon fell under the sway of the Socialist Realist discourse, along with the rest of Soviet art, and quickly crystallised as a didactic genre for children. Disney’s paradigm became its major source of inspiration both in terms of visual style and thematic scope, despite the fact that Soviet Union was regarded as the ideological opposite of the Western way of life and mindset. The Soviet animation industry was spread across different studios and republics that adopted slightly varied production practices and tolerated different degrees of artistic freedom. Studios in the smaller republics, such as Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in particular, stood out for making films that were more ideologically complicated than those produced in Moscow.
This article examines five films by Veiko Õunpuu, Estonia’s most renowned contemporary director – Empty (Tühirand, Estonia, 2006), Autumn Ball (Sügisball, Estonia, 2007), Temptations of St Tony (Püha Tõnu kiusamine, Estonia/Finland/Sweden, 2009), Free Range: Ballad on Approving of the World (Free Range: ballaad maailma heakskiitmisest, Estonia, 2013) and Roukli (Estonia, 2015), focusing on his representations of neoliberalism and especially its effect on the emotional and intimate lives of the characters. We argue that the characters of his films typically reject the conventional romance promoted by neoliberal discourses, including Hollywood cinema, yet this does not make them happy, but disoriented and restless. The repudiation of ‘emotional capitalism’ also pertains to the way Õunpuu’s films are conceived and executed. Most importantly, he resists the conventions of Hollywood cinema, including a classical script and happy ending, and also sets and shoots his films in peripheral places. Our main theoretical framework is the concept of ‘emotional capitalism’ as elaborated by Eva Illouz.
The first thing this article tries to do is discuss the Estonian audiovisual media and content production system in its entirety - i.e. to look at film, television and interactive audiovisual services as an increasingly integrated system. Secondly, it tries to understand the issues that this convergence process presents to these formerly distinct sub-fields of the audiovisual culture, as well as for the country’s cultural policy makers. Thirdly, it presents an alternative rationale for audiovisual policymaking - reconceptualising the policy in support of an ‘innovation system’. The aim of this policy would be to improve ‘innovation coordination’ - to make the system generate more innovative cultural forms and representations, which at the aggregate level would translate into increased cultural diversity. The article assesses the innovation coordination within the Estonian audiovisual media and content production system.
This article aims to find out how Soviet Estonian documentaries constructed the national discourse in the 1960s, by focusing on the case of the 10-minute documentary Ruhnu (1965) by Andres Sööt. Ruhnu was the first Soviet Estonian documentary released after World War II that romanticised Estonian nationalism. In order to narrate the national ideals considered undesirable by the official ideology, the Soviet Estonian filmmakers often chose to portray characters embedded in the national consciousness as archetypal heroes from pre-Soviet times and the landscapes associated with them. In the desire for past times, national heroes and idealised landscapes were constructed and naturalised in a contemporary context. The article raises the question - what kind of heroes, landscapes and activities were used to construct the national identity and which elements of film language were used? The research method used, critical discourse analysis, allows us to analyse the archetypes created in the documentary and the archetypal landscapes used as a framework for the narrative.
The article uses Vladimir Propp’s Morphology of the Folktale (Морфолоƨuя сказкu, 1928) as a framework to illustrate the way in which Aleksei Balabanov masterfully creates a modern folk tale using classic motifs and structures in his 1997 film Brother (Браm, Russia) and its sequel Brother 2 (Браm 2, Russia, 2000). The paper argues that Brother and Brother 2 are post-Soviet retellings of classic tales of Russian folklore and that Danila is a modern hero, an unlikely saviour of the Russian nation and the Russian soul. Danila’s journey is formulaic, predictable and straightforward, yet nevertheless makes for a powerfully new take on concepts of Russian nationalism and heroism. The underworld to which our hero must journey is located in the heart of Russia’s ‘Peter’, and possession of the Russian nation and soul are the object of his quest in the volatile post-Soviet period.
Aki Kaurismäki is arguably the best-known Finnish filmmaker, owing largely to his feature films such as Crime and Punishment (Rikos ja rangaistus, Finland, 1983), Calamari Union (Finland, 1985), Shadows in Paradise (Varjoja paratiisissa, Finland, 1986), Hamlet Goes Business (Hamlet liikemaailmassa, Finland, 1987), Ariel (Finland, 1988), The Match Factory Girl (Tulitikkutehtaan tyttö, Finland, 1990), I Hired a Contract Killer (Finland/ Sweden, 1990), La vie de bohéme (Finland/France/ Sweden/Germany, 1992), Take Care of Your Scarf, Tatiana (Pidä huivista kiinni, Tatjana, Finland/Germany, 1994), Drifting Clouds (Kauas pilvet karkaavat, Finland, 1996), Juha (Finland, 1999), The Man Without a Past (Mies vailla menneisyyttä, Finland, 2002), Lights in the Dusk (Laitakaupungin valot, Finland, 2006) and Le Havre (Finland/France, 2011). A large body of his work has been made in Finland, but also in countries like France and Great Britain. Besides feature films, he has also made documentaries and short films, as well as musical films with the group Leningrad Cowboys. In a broader context, Kaurismäki has a unique place in Finnish and international film history, as well as in media and communication culture. Kaurismäki’s cultural context includes elements that have been turned into national and transnational symbols of social communication and narrative interaction by his stylisation. The director’s cinematic strategy investigates and makes choices evoking a social understanding of characters that has special communicative value. Kaurismäki’s films have been scrutinised for over thirty years.
This article explores the ways in which different external and internal factors (especially politics and economics) have encouraged or hindered the evolution of Estonian Public Broadcasting. This article argues that the Estonian government’s ‘idealisation’ of market forces that is supported by European Union (EU) media policy and driven by the common market ideology does not take into account the actual abilities of a small country’s media companies to provide a wide range of media services, and thereby limits the offerings of high-quality local content. The research methodology is based on an analysis of EU media policy documents, Estonian media legislation and broadcasters’ annual reports in the period from 1992 to 2014. The main finding of this article is that official Estonian media policy is largely shaped by the financial results of private media companies.