In the Crosswind
Stars: Einar Hillep, Ingrid Isotamm, Laura Peterson, Mirt Preegel and Tarmo Song
Director: Martti Helde
Scriptwriters: Martti Helde and Liis Nimik
Composer: Part Uusberg
Cinematography: Erik Pollumaa
Allfilm/ Estonian Ministry of Culture/Deckert
No Rating but could be PG 13
Running Length: 88 Minutes
Estonian/Russian language with subtitles
**Note: “In The Crosswind” was filmed in 2014 and now is being made available to the North American Continent. Films with strong messages are now available through streaming subscription service Film Movement Plus.
There are many ways to tell the story of war. Roman soldiers with swords and spears, Middle Ages with armor and swords and cannons, Civil Wars with battlefields in one’s own country, Genocide through devious means, and then there is disassembling a country and sending its citizens to labor camps in other parts of the continent. Such is the story in this film, based on a diary of the time period of the late 1940’s into the 1950’s when Josef Stalin died, the master mind of disassembly.
Director/scriptwriter Martti Helde has chosen to film this story in black and white and in some sections, using a tableau of actors and backgrounds. The actors stand perfectly still, against a village or in a forest or in a house, while the camera has free range throughout. The audience is taken on a ride they begin to enjoy, but then see where the ride is taking them. Just like the real participants from the diary. War, truly is hell.
At this time, have handkerchief ready. The main characters are the husband Heldur (Tarmo Song), his wife, Erna (Laura Peterson) and their young daughter, Eliide (Mirt Preegel). They live on a small farm in Estonia, have a servant, cattle, much to eat and are happy. Eventually, Estonia is taken over by Russia and the family is divided. As Erna writes, "What evil has this little country done to giant Russia?" Erna and Eliide travel weeks in boxcars to a labor camp in Siberia, while Heldur stays behind in Estonia. Narration is by Erna from letters written to Heldur and not knowing where he is. Erna’s life is dismal as she fights for survival, living on one slice of bread per day in a labor camp that is in a forest. Each day must seem like an eternity and the human spirit turns out to be boundless.
The main characters, Heldur (Tarmo Song) and Erna (Laura Peterson) have such expression in their faces that you cannot turn away. It captures you. There are moments of acting and moments of standing still while the camera goes around the actors and investigates the place they are. It is a quiet and subtle way of describing wartime.
You can tell a story of war and deprivation without explosions and tanks and bombs falling from the sky. Take away the sound effects and look around to see what is happening and you get a different viewpoint. Sometimes, motionless is the way to survive and dictators do eventually die and boundaries do change…. but what is left behind from home and where one has served time, are memories that cannot be erased. Yes, life goes on, even in a crosswind.
Copyright 2021 Marie Asner