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1940s and 1950s: THE BEGINNING OF THE HALF-CENTURY OF THE FOREIGN RULE

 

The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact brought the Soviet military bases to Estonia already in the autumn of 1939 and a year later came the Soviet foreign rule. During the Second World War it was replaced by the Nazi regime until the autumn of 1944 when the Eastern neighbours re-entered Tallinn and stayed for decades until 1991 when Estonia regained its independence.

Eesti Kultuurfilm was nationalized in September 1940. Propaganda film „The Nation's Will“(1940) produced with the support of Leningrad Studio of Cinema Chronicles was supposed to demonstrate the so-called voluntariness in joining the Soviet Union, even if the film scenes revealed the columns of Soviet marines among the demonstrators. Another propaganda film „Red Fog“ (Roter Nebel, 1942) produced a few years later preached about the racial politics of the Third Reich while adding references to the crimes committed in Estonia by the Soviet authorities.

The first feature films in Soviet Estonia were produced with the support of Lenfilm. Austrian director Herbert Rappaport (1908-1983) who worked for Lenfilm and whose professional career was launched as an assistant to G. W. Pabst in Germany. In 1936, he emigrated from Hollywood to the Soviet Union.

Rappaport's „Life in a Citadel“ (1947) brings to the viewer an intelligent man who has distanced himself from life and who reviews his standpoints while wishing to be actively involved in social life. „Light in Koordi“ (1951) had the mission to depict the reorganizations in Estonian rural life and the fairytalelike welfare after welcoming the new system of collective farms.

Rappaport's films recorded the best Estonian actors and actresses and were more professional than the works directed by several other foreign filmmakers; at the same time, his films properly followed the pattern of Stalinist ideology.

Today, several films of that era may seem even funny (for instance „The Anthem of Estonian SSR“, 1945, can be considered as the predecessor of karaoke film); however, back at these times the films excluded any kind of humour.

After Stalin's death, the ideological pressure weakened and it was possible to start film production with more human values, later also with higher artistic quality. The best choice of actors of that time was also represented in Viktor Nevezhin's film „In the Back Yard“ (1956) based on the story by Oskar Luts.

„Venturous Curves“ (1959), directed by Juli Kun and Kaljo Kiisk, is still a popular feature film among the local audience. As „the first panorama art film in the world“ (the Soviet analogue for American Cinerama screen image), the version of the film „Dangerous Curves“ (1961) was produced that local cinema audience could see only in 1964 when the only panorama cinema „Kosmos“ in Estonia was opened.

In 1958, the first Estonian puppet animation „Little Peeter's Dream“ directed by Elbert Tuganov (1920-2007) was produced; that formed the basis for the regular production of puppet animation in Estonia.

Rein Aren (1927-1990) was the most demanded actor at the second half of the 1950s, either in positive or negative roles.

Yet, the position of Estonian film among other arts remained „the big solitary“ and „an artificial transplant“ as was once characterized by Lennart Meri, intellectual and filmmaker, later also the President of the Republic of Estonia, in 1968. One of the reasons for that was probably the direct control from Moscow and the absence of exhaustive national film traditions.

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The database is maintained by NGO Estonian Film Database. It was opened on 12.12.2012 and is meant for providing information about the whole Estonian film heritage from 1912. We plan fully complete it by 2022 but already now full and partial entries for about 16 000 films, 9000 filmmakers and more than 200 production companies could be retrieved in Estonian and partly in English. Translation of film descriptions and keywords into English is an ongoing process. Read more detailed overview.

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