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In the Crosswind

Estonia 2014. Dir: Martti Helde. 90 min. DCP

VANCOUVER PREMIERE | A festival darling that garnered prizes galore, writer-director-virtuoso Martti Helde’s astonishing first feature — an art film with the emphasis on art — recalls the haunting history of Stalin’s “ethnic cleansing” of Estonia via letters sent by a deported mother cast adrift in Siberia in the early ’40s. It’s quite unlike any traditional period piece, because Helde and his painterly cinematographer, Erik Pollumaa, visualize the story through an unbroken series of monochrome tableaux vivants — literally “living pictures” — in which the actors stay motionless, frozen in a moment, while the camera dexterously sashays around them. The result, four painstaking years in the making, is an eerie, exhilarating masterwork of formal ingenuity. “One of the most courageous and intrinsically detailed feature debuts we’ve ever seen ... Martti Helde has made a grand entrance into arthouse cinema” (Nikola Grozdanovic, IndieWire). In Estonian and Russian with English subtitles.