We have a lot of criticisms for Lithuanian filmmakers. This list could be easily named as “Top 10 Best Lithuanian Films of All Time” or “Top 10 Most Enduring Lithuanian Movies”, since no cinematic works created in the 20th century would enter the list. Past century Lithuanian cinema could barely breathe, and old movies in our opinion, are weak or overestimated. Only in the 21st century did Lithuanian cinema start to generate some new ideas. Though, the current situation in the cinematography is not particularly pleasing, but it is at least the beginning of a hope for the better future.
10. “Redirected” (2014) / Dir. Emilis Vėlyvis
Vivacious but at the same time humiliating. Vėlyvis’ “Zero II” excessive hyperbolization can be felt thanks to the same director of “Redirected”, and this only proves that Vėlyvis likes to sharpen things up. The only difference is that this time the sharpness can offend the viewer or make them smile. Story starts with the four British citizens entering Lithuania, who are by no means are ordinary tourists, but representatives of the criminal world with the intentions of getting rich. When all hell breaks loose, there are no heroes or anti-heroes here, only a big jumble. The movie itself is made of endless action, humour, worth laughing and high-quality scenes. The image of Lithuania is represented with the episodes of native TV shows such as “24 Hours”, “TV Help” and “TOP 10 Criminal Cases”. This gives the viewer a range of strange emotions and might make them grumpy or gleeful at the same time. Though, we must admit, that this is one of the most professional works of Lithuanian cinematography.
9. “The Saint” (2017) / Dir. Andrius Blaževičius
First of all this is a political movie. According to the Eurostat statistics, almost 30% of population in modern Lithuania is at the poverty line. The film takes place in 2008, when the country survived the financial crisis, but it could describe modern days as well as the situation has not changed so much. In general it is a fine and artistic movie with the international festivals’ recognitions which reveals the political reality of Lithuania based on motivated heroes’ portraits. It is a deceptively simple piece. Story reflects complexity of liberal democracy in Lithuania, which has not been able to create a functioning welfare state for all its citizens. More specifically, the film criticizes state institutions, media, popular culture. It is also unique for its quality. While movie shows off poverty, every shot is filled with high levels of art. The story and unexpected twists – only as much as needed, thanks to the scriptwriters Andrius Blaževičius, Teklė and Marija Kavtaradze. Actors’ performances – right into the point, thanks to Marius Repšys, Indrė Patkauskaitė and Gelminė Glemžaitė. Lina Dabriška finds creativity even whilst filming through the balcony glass. A simple, but purposeful and high-quality political message is the reason why this movie is fantastic.
8. “Vanishing Waves” (2014) / Dir. Kristina Buožytė
The hope of Lithuanian cinema “Vanishing Waves” is an artistic and atmospheric director’s Kristina Buožytė sci-fi drama. Movie tells the story of an experiment involving a female in the coma and her brain connection to another man and that with each session the main character Lukas becomes more and more intimate with the source. Somehow we want to compare it with “Altered States” or “The Cell” movies, because a similar formula senses’ repeatedness is felt and spectator feels attacked by atmospheric sounds or images. A good, uninterrupted soundtrack – a very important element in creating the mood. Beautiful visuals and good camera work is also nice to look at.
7. “You am I” (2006) / Dir. Kristijonas Vildžiūnas
It’s hard to surprise or interest viewers these days. However, Lithuanians are still determined to popularize their cinematography. Films are often criticized for lack of action, simplicity and poetic approach of the characters. “You am I” by Kristijonas Vildžiūnas is exactly like that. The director is trying to capture the most impalpable thing – person’s inner world. On the screen we can also see Italian celebrity Silvia Ferreri. The mysterious title of the movie refers to the greeting of the Mayan tribe, which is said by an unexpectedly showed up aborigine Movie character is a lonely, disillusioned architect who decides to fulfill his dream of building a house in a tree and staying in the woods. He wishes to forget all of the troubles by living calmly. The life of Baronas (Andrius Bialobžeskis) is disrupted when a group of young people comes to the nearby village. The creators were able to successfully convey natural world to viewers.
The film has been presented at the Berlin Film Festival, already won recognition in foreign countries and in Lithuania. The work was awarded with three Silver Cranes – Lithuanian Film Awards. Klavdia Koršunova was recognized as the best actress, Šarūnas Bartas got the best director’s award and the film itself won the best picture in 2010. In this film, Bartas is not only the director or operator, but also co-scriptwriter and the main character. Movie tells the story of an ex-drug-trafficker who searches a new life and freedom that extends between Vilnius, Moscow and Paris.
5. “Tadas Blinda: The Beginning” (2011) / Dir. Donatas Ulvydas
It is a historical action piece which became most commercially successful film in the history of independent Lithuania. The budget was a little bit more than 1 million 200 000 thousand euros and it has collected around 2 million euros among cinema audiences. Storyline depicts a youth of the legendary fair-minded Tadas Blinda and the events that shaked Samogitia. At the year of the 1861, the political intrigue in the remote village is turning into a battle led by a young army officer from St. Petersburg and also involves Bernardas Gruinius (Vidas Petkevičius) and his beautiful daughter Kristina (Agnė Ditkovskytė). Tadas Blinda (Mantas Jankavičius) has to say goodbye to the careless lifestyle and take responsibilities not only for his own actions, but also for the lives of the loved ones. In an attempt to perceive his place during a violent reality, the hero discovers values worth living and dying. The struggle for freedom, justice and love begins. The new project did not disappointed fans of the TV series Tadas Blinda released more than 40 years ago. An excellent director’s and operator’s work, impressive images of Lithuania, historical costumes, successful performance of the an actor’s debut by the singer Mantas Jankavičius created a miracle to the Lithuanian cinema fans.
4. “Miracle” (2017) / Dir. Eglė Vertelytė
“Miracle” gently takes you back to the 1992 when the freshly baked independence of Lithuania is driven by unemployment, bankruptcy of bankers and mafia. The main heroes are the heads of the local pig farm from a small town. Irena (Eglė Mikulionytė) opens the tragic comic strip of socialist and capitalist systems. In the background of historical fractures we can see the growth of a personal dramas. Though, Irena incarnates a stereotypical, strong and powerful woman whilst making a great effort to earn money, keep the farm and husband, take care of her home and always try to control everything even if the farms (the former collective farms) are in danger of bankruptcy. But on the other hand she’s prostrated, does not experience love or happiness because of a constantly drinking husband. When it seems that everything is going to collapse, a guest from America shows up . An American-Lithuanian Bernardas (Vyto Ruginis) arrives with the promises of saving the farm from bankruptcy.
3. “The Excursionist” (2013) / Dir. Audrius Juzėnas
Intriguing historical drama based on the real facts takes the viewer into a very complicated year for Lithuania of 1948. 11-year-old Marija (Anastasija Marčenkaitė) with her pregnant mother was transported to Siberia, but managed to escape. Lost in the frozen and unfamiliar places a girl desperately tries to survive while encountering a wide range of people in her path. Nevertheless, Marija does not lose the hope and in every possible way tries to return to Lithuania. Since the very first scenes of the film, we are involved into the story. Interesting fact is that we can hear two languages and we can see their subtitles simultaneously which brings a real taste for the events of that time. Picture quality is impeccable. Properly selected natural images helps the spectator to survive alongside with the characters which are very different with their own stories and goals.
2. “Gambler” (2014) / Dir. Ignas Jonynas
Movie tells an incredible story that instantly becomes close to each one of us. Vincentas (Vytautas Kaniušonis) – an ambulance employee who has been pushed to the corner by the debts decides to devise a new betting game. It is precisely the moral issue that matters most when observing the choices of the characters. The decisions made may look shocking, extreme or inevitable. Finally, the inner struggle of Vincentas goes down in the eyes of the audience and provokes the question of how we deal with corruption in an overridden system? How cruel could you be in a name of saving your loved ones? The striking operator work will make it possible not only to feel anger, despair, joy or irony, but also to smell the scent of a green Lithuanian forests or to enter the Baltic Sea.
1. “Ashes in the Snow” (2018) / Dir. Marius Markevičius
“Ashes in the Snow”, already titled as one of the best Lithuanian films to be seen by everyone, tells the painful and shocking story of the nation. The biggest attention and applauses goes to the excellent work of the creative team, script, costumes, sound editing, and well-designed characters.The movie is based on Lithuanian-born writer’s Ruta Sepetys’ “Between Shades of Grey”, a New York Times best-selling novel, which has been translated into more than 27 languages and even included in the book list of the most recommended for schoolchildren in Lithuania. The idea of this movie is to show and tell the history of Lithuania and the Baltic States not only to Lithuanian people, but also to the international audience around the world. “Ashes in the Snow” tells the history of exile in the eyes of a young girl Lina Vilkas (Bel Powley), and the evening of June 14, 1941, when her peaceful life and the dream of studying fine arts was smashed into pieces by the unexpected visit of NKVD officers which threw her, her mother and brother to Siberian animal wagons. Hundreds of thousands of other Lithuanians, Latvians and Estonians also met the same fate. We watch foreign and Lithuanian actors playing well in the movie. Production for “Ashes in the Snow” took approximately five years to complete. Some scenes included as many as 700 people. Scenography, costumes, and superb acting created a cinematic masterpiece. It is often said that the book is better than the movie, but in this case the movie is as good as the book it is based on. The creative team of this film reminded us the extremely painful pages of Lithuanian history. Over a thousand of costumes, makeup, decorations, and hairstyles of that period, lets us feel the authentic atmosphere of the time. The cinematography made it possible to dip further into spectacular landscapes, sound editing also contributed to a more powerful and stronger heart thrills. “Ashes in the Snow” helps the viewer to look closer at what the exiles have experienced as a true struggle of surviving.