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Spit in my Face (Sülita Mulle Näkku)

A real-life Statler and Waldorf siphoned through tea, vodka, smoking and rye bread charm and horrify viewers in equal measures - filthy documentary premieres in the Baltic Competition of the 27th Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival


Any film which opens with its protagonist at the far-right edge of the screen, inexplicably taking off their trousers with the dialogue, “A film about three losers shouldn’t get any money,” really does demand your attention. This documentary concerning the filmmakers Kristjan Svirgsden, Edvard Oja and Manfred Vainokivi, the “three losers” of the dialogue, is as bitter, dark and as unpleasant as the inside of a septic tank. And yet, it’s utterly compel-ling, moving and one of the best films this reviewer has seen this year. Spit In My Face has more insight, feeling and ultimately compassion in its one hour than most films attempt to do in two and a half.

The film is mostly a dance back and forth of interviews between 2008 and 2022. Kristjan is our romantic of the film, but one who would turn up to a date with an urn rather than roses. Edvard, commonly referred to as Eedi, is our pessimist but this term is too light for what is his dominating acerbic nature. Manfred is our director and we barely see him throughout this film, leaving the other two filmmakers to constantly belittle, demean, and question the other through a haze of tea, rye bread, smoking and vodka. The main crux of the story is that a new guidebook of 101 Estonian Films has come out. Out of the three filmmakers, only Eedi has made the grade. The irony of this is that the man has little desire to make films while Kristjan continues to dream and chase to secure funding for a film regarding the Estonian painter Jüri Arrak.

Kristjan and Eedi’s constant bickering, but of an intellectual rather than soap opera sort, reeks of two people who know what they had and would love to have again. Their insults are measured and precise, two champions of the art who will even turn their dress into an attack. In one of the 2008 interviews we continually go back to, Kristjan in ill-fitting suit and hat could easily have stepped out of Waiting For Godot albeit a version where Godot will turn up more promptly than any film financier. In a reversal of Kristjan’s black suit and white shirt, Eedi turns up to a future interview in white suit black shirt. Could his Mark Twain looking suit be a dig at Kristjan’s earlier dress? A negative to his positive? Again, any chance for an insult is lovingly slapped into the opponent in this film.

And yet, there is so much beauty throughout. Eedi’s face in old age, gifted through a heavy diet of drinking, smoking, and lamenting, could easily have been seen in Anders Pe-tersen’s Café Lehmitz. The place he lives in during the later interviews Kristjan doesn’t want to enter, happy to conduct the talk through the living room window. And yet, when Kristjan leaves the faraway camera doesn’t and we see Eedi seemingly wiping away tears. These are two people who no matter how far they wish to proclaim how better they are than the other, there is deep affection and love. And while the filming stays on a razor blade between surgical and experimental, it is the one-liners which stay with you (“Booze makes my eyes shine, not you”; “It’s a pity that a camera matters more to you then me”; “Your life’s work down the toilet with one fucking pull”). Finally, if you want to get to the heart of the film there is no better scene than an interview between the two conducted on a rowing boat aground, discussing the past, going nowhere, but succeeding in giving the viewer a generous and honest appraisal of what we sacrifice, and what we gain, in life’s works and friendships

Spit in my Face just premiered in the Baltic Competition of the 27th Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival.

By Chris Simpson - 11-11-2023

Chris grew up in Bracknell and Slough, which explains 90% of his choices. To pay the bills he has worked as a waiter, a cinema projectionist, a shoe salesman, an attendant in an amusement arcade, hiri...

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