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Unveiling ideas about a New World in Nova Lituania

A review by Līga Požarska, Young Tallints participant

Lithuanian director Karolis Kaupinis debut feature Nova Lituania offers an idea about a backup Lithuania in case a political catastrophe strikes. 

Based on a true story and set in 1938 pre-war Lithuania, geographer and researcher Feliksas Gruodis (Aleksas Kazanavicius) has thought of a solution to the problems that the Baltic country faces – he proposes to make a liveable and a better version of the country somewhere overseas. 

The film talks about the threats of war and the destabilization of Europe as Lithuania precariously celebrates celebrates its 20th year of Independence. Yet the historical situation here is a backdrop as Kaupinisuses it as a background to put the emphasis on Gruodis as an individual, showing how his obsession with a utopian idea affects his marriage. His full dedication to his concept results in a growing alienation between him and his wife. Some hints and briefly mentioned remarks suggest that it has been hard for the couple to be on the same page about having children. These disappointments can be subtly registered in their facial expressions and conversations, where the wife tries to talk and ask questions, but the husband just gives short answers.

Nova Lituania feels rather peaceful because of the calm black and white imaginary and cleverly written screenplay. Nova Lituania is elegantly filmed by DoP Simonas Glinskis whose shots are melancholic and ascetic, evoking a certain kind of serenity.

The script written by the director himself is well balanced. Characters are selective about their words, filling them with content and speaking up to the point (also the domestic conversations), reflecting the non-chatty mentality of Nordic and Baltic people. This results in the film not being overly explanatory.

The characters are also put in big and empty spaces – the prime minister’s apartment is to huge for just 3 people living there and Gruodis family flat is rather big, leaving him to operate in big rooms with only few pieces of furniture. This reflects the phrase “emptiness is our worst enemy” when speaking about the fact that Lithuania’s small density is one of its greatest weaknesses because invaders can colonize empty territories much faster.

The film asks fundamental questions about ignorance and facing the consequences. No one except the prime minister takes Gruodis seriously, showing that the leading people of the country avoid the reality of a very possible invasion – something that would prove a historical inevitability.  

When the leading minds of the country and even the whole world are too reluctant to act, won’t we always be at least one regret behind? While the idea of a backup world is still in progress, we can enjoy the one we live in. 

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