Truth And Justice (Tanel Toom, 2019): Estonia

Reviewed by Jacob Mohler at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival 2020.

Image result for truth and justice 2019 estonian filmTruth And Justice is an Estonian film based off of the book with the same title written by Anton Hansen Tammsaare in 1926. It’s a gripping story revolving around the life of a farmer named Andres and his strive to accomplish his dream. This was directed and written by Tanel Toom (Director of “The Confession”) and produced by Ivo Felt (“Tangerines”), Armin Karu and Madis Tüür.

I saw this film as part of the 2020 Santa Barbara International Film Festival followed by a Q&A with Director and Writer, Tanel Toom.

It’s 1870, Estonian farmer Andres (played by Priit Loog) and his wife Krõõt (played by Maiken Schmidt) are seeking their fortune in a community called “Robbers Rise”. They move onto a rustic, grizzled property out in the countryside of Estonia.

They also move to this new land in hopes of starting a new family.

When they move in they meet their new neighbor Pearu (played by Priit Võigemast). He and his family have lived in that area for a while. Pearu and Andres take a walk around their properties so that Pearu can define where his property and Andres’ property meet.

Andres has a vision for his land but his ideas are shot down by Pearu when it comes to where the properties meet. They continue to get at each other’s throats when they start working on their properties.

Pearu builds a makeshift dam out of dirt and wood stakes to prevent a stream of water from flowing into their valley. Andres tries to unearth the dam because he needs the water for his crops and livestock. Pearu tries to stop him because the water makes his land soggy and muddy.

The men’s bickering goes on and on, over and over again. Meanwhile, Andres and his wife Krõõt are trying to have a boy. They give birth to only girls.

Whilst all of this is happening they realize they need extra help on the farm. They hire a young man named Juss (played by Simeoni Sundja) and his wife Mari (played by Ester Kuntu). The couple have a few children of their own. They all live together on the property.

Krõõt ends up pregnant again and gives birth to a baby boy. She ends up passing away during birth. After her passing the people in the town start teasing Juss and telling him that Andres will now make a move on his wife. This makes Juss paranoid and he attempts to kill Andres.

He fails to kill Andres and decides that his only option is to hang himself. Now it is just Andres and Mari left on the property with their blended family.

Andres and Mari realize they need each other so they get married. Mari then fully starts to realize the insanity behind Andres and his unstoppable drive to be the head of the valley.

This was a beautifully, unsettling film and I mean that in a positive way. The subject isn’t supposed to be cheerful, it’s meant to be realistic for the time. So because of the theme of the film the acting in this was equally eerie. Actor Priit Loog who plays Andres was brilliantly cast for this role. He did an amazing job of playing a young, happy man growing into a crotchety, older man. By the end of the film, you almost forget that Loog is playing both the young and old version of Andres. It feels almost like two separate characters.

Along with Loog’s great acting, the role wouldn’t have been complete if it weren’t for the amazing Make-Up department on this film. Their make-up used for the aging process of Andres seemed so real.

Another superstar to come out of this would be the production designer Jaagup Roomet. The setting was fantastic and brought you back almost 150 years ago into the past. Both Andres and Pearu’s farms looked so ancient and fragile.

I thoroughly enjoyed this film not only for its acting and plot but for its setting. Seeing this film has peeked my interest in reading the book.

This film has its eerie moments, so it’s not for all audiences but I definitely recommend this film to anybody that’s wanting to be a filmmaker and/or is an avid lover of film.

 

 

 

 

 

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