Magazine article Screen International

'The Chronicles of Melanie': Tallinn Review

Magazine article Screen International

'The Chronicles of Melanie': Tallinn Review

Article excerpt

Dir: Viestur Kairish. 2016. Latvia, Czech Republic, Finland . 120 mins

On the morning of June 15th, 1941, over 40,000 people from Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania found themselves torn from their family homes and forcibly relocated. This mass deportation, executed on the orders of Stalin, saw husbands and wives separated and made to toil in Siberia for starvation rations. This powerful but gruelling film tells the story of one woman, Melanija Vanaga, who, at the age of 86, published her account of the 16 years she was forced to spend in Siberia.

Strikingly shot in black and white, and featuring an arresting blend of sound design and music, this is a potent account of the human cost of Soviet ethnic cleansing in the Baltic region. Although less experimental in approach, the film has a thematic kinship with the Estonian picture In The Crosswind; both deal with the horrific experiences of a wife who writes letters to a husband whose location she doesn't know for sure.

Chronicles, which plays in the main competition at Tallinn's Black Nights Film Festival, is an eye-catching piece of work which should attract attention on the festival circuit. Interest within the Baltic region is likely to be keen. But pacing issues and the unrelenting bleakness of the story may pose a marketing challenge to any distributor looking to release the film theatrically in territories less invested in the historical events explored.

We get the briefest of glimpses of the comfortable life that Melanie (a physically committed turn from Sabine Timoteo) and her husband, a former newspaper editor, share in Riga. …

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