Sügisball (Autumn Ball) (DVD Review)22 Aug, 2009 By: Billy Gil
Prebook 8/25/09; Street 9/22/09
In Estonian with English subtitles.
The Estonian drama Sügisball is as challenging a film as I’ve seen in a while.
The film follows several characters, from a struggling single mother to a sleazy doorman, living in a depressing apartment complex. Standard fare for these residents seems to be failed relationships, alcoholism, sex and sudden violence, despite the chic homes they inhabit and cool parties they attend.
Sügisball occasionally falls into indie traps, such as overly symbolic shots of urban landscape and birds soaring through the skies, along with realistic characters that mostly just exist rather than develop, but it also feels very different and new. Make no mistake, this film is not for everyone — although fleeting, the sex and violence of Sügisball are extremely graphic — but those with very open minds about what filmmaking can be will find the film to be an unforgettable experience, full of stunning, sweeping shots and bitingly comic moments.
The point of Sügisball seems to be to show the effect of modern urban living on delicate souls. More globally, it may be a social commentary on the dangers of Estonia’s rapid economic and social development after declaring its independence in the early 1990s. Or perhaps one character says it best: “In every f*cking little box out there, there is a human being trying to be happy.”