Title: Kuhu Põgenevad Hinged
English title: Where souls go
Genre: teenage drama
Time: 1h 34min
Premier: 26th October 2007
Screenplay: Aidi Vallik
Director: Rainer Sarnet
Producer: Anneli Ahven
Production company: Exitfilm/ Estonia
Official webpage: www.hinged.ee
Budget: 780 000 euro
Financing in place: 28 100 euro (national support)
Partners attached: tba
Ann – Ragne Veensalu
Maya – Lenna Kuurmaa
Ann’s father – Ivo Uukkivi
Ann’s mother – Viire Valdma
Seth – Andres Lõo
Maya’s mother – Ene RÃƒÂ¤mmeld
In ‘Kuhu põgenevad hinged’ Lenna Kuurmaa acts a satanist girl named Maya. It’s the first time that Lenna will be shown on a big cinema screen. Lenna said that when she was making the movie, she didn’t have any time to read press or watch TV. For over a month she was living in the rhythm of recording movie. She totally lost contact with reality. The movie is based on Peeter’s Sauter, Reiner’s Sarnet and Aidi’s Vallik novel and popular books serie “Ann” – “Where do you live, Ann?” and “What to Do, Ann?” (translated titles), but movie is completely new story. Lenna said that the offer to play a role came very unexpected. “I received a call in the end of Summer 2006 and said that they are waiting for me on rehearsal. It was very unexpected. I thought – oh, it is going to be a little role, but being one of main actors, it was a surprise”. But Lenna didn’t regret. She hopes that it’s not her last role in movie. She experienced only positive things. “All crew is like a family. It’s really cool”. It’s her first role in the movie, but she used to play in musicals. “But it’s completely different, something bigger. It’s more exciting. And it’s something for me. If I receive other offers, I will accept them. So I’m the one of girls who dream about being singer and actress” – laughs Lenna.
Where Souls Go (Kuhu põgenevad hinged) is based on the story written by Aidi Vallik, the best-selling Estonian novellist. The whole film is based on a heroine of her books – the main character being Ann, a 16-year-old girl. This is a mystical, romantic story about Ann, a popular girl whose life at home starts to fall apart. It looks like her new baby brother might die. Her mother won’t talk to her. Her father starts drinking. Ann has no option but to start looking for her own answers to what is going on. First she tries the local church, then some flamboyant fortune tellers, then she ends up with members of a Gothic sect who promise they can change the future. Although her baby brother dies anyway, Ann finally become friends with Maya (Lenna Kuurmaa), whom to lean on and someone else to worry about.
The main characters of this film for young audience are two 16-years old Tallinn girls Ann and Maya. Ann’s world is safe and nice. At the beginning of the film she is buying herself a teddy bear in a supermarket. The world of her friend Maya is different – she is involved in her freak family and Satanist friends. As Ann gets a little brother who falls ill, her
concern for him brings Ann closer to Maya. Maya, wishing to help her friend, takes Ann to her Satanist friends. Being a family feature, the film also shows the subcultures of the youngsters like Satanist-movement, death metal and gothic life-style. Nevertheless, as the world is presented through the eyes of the two girls, the predominant atmosphere should be rather naive and romantically expressive instead of a gloomy and depressive one. There could be lots of space for (Estonian) music and songs in the films. Some key-shots could be put on stage in the form of self-dependent musical acts (American Beauty). The main idea of the film is loneliness, isolation in one’s own sorrow, or otherwise – egoism. It is characteristic for all characters of the feature. In the most drastic way it concerns the family of Maya – mother Dora is involved in esotericism, Maya’s little sister Devi lives her own life and does not want to be disturbed even in her greatest grief. Maya is taken by the cult of the Satanists. Ann‘s family leads a cozy idyllic life, being proud of it. Ann’s mother is an overbearing woman who decides what is acceptable and normal for the family and what is not. When suddenly sorrow comes up, pride becomes shame. Mother blames father, father blames himself and Ann doesn’t find understanding with neither of them, the result being aliennation. Both Ann’s and Maya’s families have failed in their own way. Solitude and isolation should be perceptible both for the girls and the audience. It should be perceived not as a moralizing but as a real experience. In this case, happy end could be the only possible solution.
Rainer Sarnet obtained BA in directing in 1998. He started his film career at the animation studio Stuudio B. Since then, Rainer has made short films, video performances and shot several commercials, has been a stage producer in theatre, published photo comic strips in Estonian newspapers, written reviews for the Estonian media, and worked as a copywriter for several advertising agencies. He is currently working on his first full-length feature The Curse of a Play to be released in December 2005. Filmography, shorts: Me, Myself and I (1999), A Chinese Fox (1998), Seasickness 1994
Anneli Ahven studied germanic studies at Estonian University of Humanities and film production at Film Studies Department of the University of Hamburg (graduated in 2002), Germany. She works for EXITFILM Ltd since 1995. She has worked for several international coproductions with Germany, France, Finland, Denmark and Poland. Producer of both feature and documentary films since 2002. Recent filmography, full length features: Shop of Dreams 2005, Men at Arms 2005.
Exitfilm Ltd is an Estonia-based production company founded in 1992, owned by Peeter Urbla (producer-director) and Zentropa ApS – Denmark. Member of the Estonian Film Producers Association. Exitfilm works closely with local funds, the film community and especially with young talents. Long-term experience in working with European companies gives Exitfilm a good platform for international co-operation. The strategy of Exitfilm targets ambitious projects with high production values, both feature films and creative documentaries.
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Aidi Vallik, author of several collections of poetry, has talked a few times about how she came to write books for young people. As we all already know ‘Kuhu põgenevad hinged’ is a film based on a series of “Ann” books, but how the whole composition begun? Where did the “Ann” idea come from?
As a teacher of literature at the Haapsalu Wiedemann Gymnasium, she has often had to face the problem of today’s children not wanting to read books any more. This young curious teacher then began asking her children all sorts of questions, trying to find out what kind of book they would like to read. And she learned that the book must speak about the children themselves, describe relationships between them: an obligatory love story, some sex, rows with parents and friends, a tragic incident. On the basis of these pieces of advice, Vallik wrote her first book “How are you, Ann?” (“Kuidas elad, Ann?”). The author later half-jokingly admitted that she was not in the least surprised by the success the book enjoyed, as it was written precisely in accordance with her students’ instructions!
The story is thus a construction: but so what? Such a sensitive genre as literature for young adults requires that the author clearly keep in mind her potential readers. Of course, other factors besides construction are essential. For example an ability to notice and understand the world of teenagers, an ability to make friends with a young reader, and last, but certainly not least, writing skills. It should be remembered that the first Ann book was not Vallik’s debut, as she had been writing poetry for a decade.
What furthered “Ann’s” popularity was the literary situation at the turn of the millennium. On the one hand, a new generation of authors emerged who perhaps only a few years ago could have been the readers of the “Ann” stories. Unfortunately, most of them did not write anything that would have been of interest to young adults. Or if anyone did, his or her book failed to attract any attention. A few years ago, for instance, a lot was said about Hiram’s trendy book with silver covers, “Mõru maik” (Bitter Taste) – a book about relationships set in an English-language environment in an anonymous big city. Many young people, alas, simply did not find it amongst so much variety in the bookshops.
At the same time, the tradition of more simple prose in the Estonian language designated for younger readers had practically died out in the literature of the 1990s. In the past, promising authors of novels for young adults published their first literary efforts in the magazine Noorus (Youth). The magazine has now folded. However, the need for this kind of literature has obviously survived, and thus the Estonian Literature Information Centre, together with the publishing house “TÃƒÂ¤napÃƒÂ¤ev”, announced a competition of stories for the young. “How are you, Ann?” won and was published in spring 2001.
After that, the author started getting letters from enthusiastic readers, demanding a sequel. A year later, “Mis teha, Ann?” (“What now, Ann?”) was published.
These books are, in a sense, poles apart. The first book mainly tackled the relations between mother and daughter. The teenage Ann (a thoroughly Estonian name, by the way!) finds her mother’s diary, where she discovers that the younger days of her strict mother had been quite stormy: filled with cheap alcohol, a bohemian lifestyle and casual sexual encounters. Ann learns that the man she has always thought of as her father is in fact not her father. Unable to cope with the shock, she runs away from home. Together with a few friends, she settles in an empty cottage near the summer resort of Võsu, where they decide to live a “full” life that naturally would end in disaster if Ann’s mother didn’t come to the rescue.
The second book, in contrast, tells about the relations between father and daughter. The attention is once again focused on Ann, who meets her first true love. But the book also tells the story of her stepfather. The reader will inevitably compare Ann’s father, whose childhood and younger years were spent at an orphanage, with Ann’s new boyfriend Gregor, who also comes from an orphanage. The two men, who have grown up without parents in a similar environment, form a sharp contrast: Ann’s father managed to escape from his difficult situation and to create a cosy home for his family, whereas Gregor turns out to be a crook and a drug dealer who cheats his trusting friend out of large sums of money. Incidentally, this is a true story that happened in Estonia – the son of a wealthy father squandering enormous amounts of money with the help of his dubious friends.
Both of the Ann stories have rather simple constructions and predictably happy endings. One might of course wonder, a bit sceptically, how so many things could happen to an ordinary little girl in Estonia? The author’s position here is immensely sympathetic. Firstly, unlike a great deal of literature for young adults, Vallik has managed to retain her ability to also present parents sympathetically. She does not accentuate her characters at the expense of their parents. In her books the parents are not totally bad and the long-suffering children are not perfect, nor perfectly misunderstood. Aidi Vallik claimed in an interview that one of her aims was to bring children spiritually closer to their parents. The passages describing the young days of Ann’s mother and father certainly are some of the best in both books.
Still, the main character should on no account be underestimated, especially since many young readers identify themselves with her. In many ways, Ann is a typical Estonian girl. She is pretty, gets on reasonably well at school, comes home in the evening at the promised time, but also does crazy things behind her parent’s back. Ann’s parents let her do all these things. The author stresses that parents shouldn’t interfere. What’s meant to happen will happen anyway and each person must learn to make his or her own decisions. Help should be offered in really serious situations, and the trick is to recognise those situations.
Judging by her books, Aidi Vallik must be a wonderful teacher. She has indeed said that teaching is a tradition in her family, a tradition common in Estonian literature for children and young adults: many excellent writers for children have been connected in one way or another with the teaching profession. Schoolteachers and pastors in Estonia have always been keen to tend the garden where new generations of readers grow. Although critics have not always been positive about their efforts, and big national awards are scarce, in a situation where literature has to wage a seemingly hopeless battle with the mass media, such a teacher, in the context of a small culture, can have a greater impact than three prominent award-winners put together. It’s quite simple – those who have read the Ann stories will start looking for more. Perhaps at some point they will want something more demanding. And then they might turn to the books of Juhan Viiding, Mihkel Mutt, Mati Unt, Viivi Luik, Tõnu Õnnepalu, Mehis Heinsaar, Ervin Õunapuu.