Sõjakaadrite sobitamine isamaa ekraanidele. Sõda taasiseseisvumisjärgses eesti mängufilmis / Reframing War for the Nation-state’s Screens


  • Mari Laaniste




mängufilm, sõjafilm, patriotism, propaganda, filmikriitika, Estonian fiction film, war film, film criticism


Teesid: Artikkel vaatleb kriitiliselt 21. sajandi eesti mängufilmides peegelduvaid katseid rakendada militaartemaatika heroilise rahvusnarratiivi kujundamise ja edasikandmise teenistusse. Vaatluse keskmes on suund, mis koosneb seni kolmest mängufilmist ning ühest telesarjast ja telemängufilmist: „Nimed marmortahvlil“ (2002), „Detsembrikuumus“ (2008), „1944“ (2015) ja „Tuulepealne maa“ (2008, 2013). Teosed moodustavad temaatikalt ja lähenemiselt küllaltki homogeense terviku ning ka retseptsioon on kaldunud neid käsitlema sama riiklikult toetatud propagandadiskursuse osadena. Artikkel tõstab problemaatilisena esile, et filmide tootmises on osalenud ajaloolase taustaga poliitikud.


This article traces and critiques attempts to reclaim militarism for patriotic purposes, as evidenced in early 21st century Estonian war-centred fiction films and TV series. Military themes were scarce in Estonia’s cinematic output during the 1990s, not so much due to their lingering association with Soviet propaganda, but rather because of economic hardship, which severely limited film budgets. However, as the ideological focus of the re-established nation-state came to rely heavily on nostalgia towards the interwar independence era, with its glorification of the victorious War of Independence, the emergence of „our own“ war films, intended to establish and perpetuate a heroic national narrative complete with military glory, seems to have been inevitable.

The works primarily discussed here include the domestic box office hits Names in Marble (dir. Elmo Nüganen, 2002), December Heat (Asko Kase, 2008) and 1944 (Elmo Nüganen, 2015) as well as the popular TV series Windswept Land (Ain Prosa, 2008, 2013). While these productions are similar in many other ways, they are united by their straightforward patriotic pathos. There is a clear genre preference for epic historical dramas presented in a populist key, complete with spectacular action sequences and romantic subplots. The preferred subject matter initially involved armed conflicts of the early 20th century – the War for Independence from 1918 to 1920, as well as the communist coup attempt in 1924, but more recent works have focused on WWII, a topic that remains divisive in contemporary Estonia. These productions have been relatively lavish for Estonia’s limited means, but their scripts have inclined towards the simplistic and conservative end of the dramatic spectrum, relying on clichés, and lacking in creativity and psychological depth. Despite attempts to encompass different social classes and some minority groups, the works perpetuate rigidly conservative values. Thus the message tends to ring hollow to many contemporary ears, and alienates parts of the audience, instead of uniting everyone in patriotic fervor.

While these productions have clearly sought to meet an existing public demand and have proved popular domestically (not abroad, despite some hopes of marketing them internationally), they have also faced mounting, increasingly sharp criticism. This stems from both their artistic shortcomings and the fact that in addition to these productions being primarily state-funded (as is nearly all of Estonian cinema), they have all received outright backing from the right-wing conservative party, Isamaa ja Res Publica Liit, that has been either Estonia’s ruling party or part of the ruling coalition for most of the time since the country re-established its independence in 1991. Two of the key figures in this party, the former prime minister Mart Laar and long-term parliament member Lauri Vahtre (both are practising historians in addition to their political careers), served either as script authors or consultants during the production of all the works mentioned. Thus, these works can be regarded as attempts to harness the emotive power of war-related themes in cinema for official purposes once again, albeit this time for the benefit of the Estonian nation-state; perhaps more accurately, for the benefit of one political party’s conceptualization of this state.

The films have also been closely tied to the state through official events, either by premiering on Independence Day or being promoted as part of the public celebrations of the state’s 90th and 95th anniversaries. This can be interpreted as an attempt to place these productions above criticism due to their patriotic content. Vahtre has even publicly challenged film critics who complain about the films being far too blatantlypropagandistic. However, it remains questionable whether such films could ever be very effective as vehicles for patriotic propaganda, as their excessive propagandistic pathos turns out to be off-putting even for domestic audiences.


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Author Biography

Mari Laaniste

Mari Laaniste – MA in art history. Her research is mainly involved with visual narrative media: fiction film and TV, drawn animation and comics. She is currently completing her PhD dissertation about the Soviet-era works of artist and filmmaker Priit Pärn, is active as a film, art and pop-culture critic, and has also published fiction. 






Artiklid / Articles