The Poet (2022) Tallinn Film Festival 2022

November 24th, 2022
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir.: Giedrius Tamosevicius, Vitautas V. Landsbergis; Cast: Donatus Zelvys, Dainius Gavenonis, Indre Patkauskaite, Martynas Nedzinskas; Lithuania 2022, 111 min.

The Poet is not just another epic drama about the grim days of Russian- occupied Lithuania in the late 1940s. First time director Giedrius Tamosevicius and veteran Vitautas V. Landsbergis avoid cliches, derring-do and bloody battlefields, instead opting for a cerebral look into the mind of a talented yet emotionally unstable creative spirit, the poet Kostas. This is a drama that turns on a moral dilemma and explores heroism from another angle. And to make things really authentic the directors have gone for a Soviet realist aesthetic – popular in many Eastern bloc countries after the fall of communism.

Kostas (Zelvys) has been sent down from university for his Anti-Soviet poetry that undermined the ‘great leader’ Stalin. He gets a second chance by agreeing to be a double agent for the KGB, into the bargain saving his family from deportation to the infamous GULAG. His first assignment involves infiltrating a group of partisans fighting the Soviet occupation forces from their hideouts in the woods. Under the guise of a teacher, he falls for librarian Jule (Patkauskaite), unaware she is in league with the partisans and is put off  by Kostas’ opportunism. But life gets complicated when Kostas is asked by Taurus (Gavenonis), the leader of the partisans, to become a double agent in their own ranks. He agrees, hoping to win Jule back.

At a Teacher’s Congress in Vilnius Kostas meets up with an old friend Eduardos (Nedzinskas), who has found a way of working the system and making a living from his anti-Soviet poems. He wants Kostas to do the same and move back to Vilnius. But Kostas gets embroiled with his KGB case officer, and finds himself being blown off course work-wise and emotionally. His double life starts to implode after the partisans come under attack from Russian forces during a night’s celebration in the woods. Kostas and Taurus dive for shelter in an underground bunker where they explore the enormity of their decisions during a dark night of the soul. AS


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