A Would-Be Typical Baltic Film By Inga Perkone-Redovica

in 21st Riga Arsenals

by Inga Perkone-Redovica

The first ten minutes of You Am I (As esi tu) prepares the audience for a would-be typical Baltic film – we can see a quiet Lithuanian landscape, old people, lonely buildings, empty places… Casually, we hear the conversation of two older women and two teenagers; the women are discussing that they had lived enough and that it’s time to die now. This conversation proves to be symbolic when all the usual old farmers disappear from the film. We can see how the archetypal environment starts to fill with strange young people never seen before in the Baltic cinema: their real existence happens somewhere on the other end of the highway, probably in the city (we never find out). Their coming to the country is very much like some kind of escapism; they do not live there, do not work there as their forefathers did. Lithuanian landscape turns out to be very handy for the life in the style of Arabian tales or Japanese poetry, or as it does for the hero of the film – an architect, Baron – for the life which looks similar to Tarzan’s.

Land in the Baltic cultures always was like a Mother – a guarantee for food and life. For the safety, the Mother-Land asked everlasting loyalty and hard work. Nothing of that kind in the film You Am I – both nature and people are permeated with idle sensuality, a feeling of lazy freedom. This all-embracing harmony creates the sense of alarm in the viewer, making him look for some mystery in the film. And it indeed reveals itself as an enigmatic text within a text, where you can’t be sure which is the main and which is the subordinated story. As in the title of the film, where is not clear or You am I or I am You (so written in the Lithuanian version), and is it all the same, or not exactly?

Still it seems that film tends to be opened as literary fiction, where the real main character is not the Baron but the young writer Kristupas. We can read the text of the film as a twisting of the imagined novel, but also we can read it as real events in the film’s universe recorded by Kristupas. Following the title of the film, Baron could be Kristupas himself, his ideal imaginary man who dares to live a free life outside the civilization and who got the love of the girl he likes.

Freedom of interpretation and the sensuality of the image is the best offer director Vildziunas is giving to audience. Also, it is perfectly possible to watch the film without any special interpretation, just as a little odd story about relations between contemporary people and nature of things in today’s world.