Igors Suhoverhovs, Karlis Spravniks, Ints Teterovskis, Liubomiras Lauciavicius
One life. Four chapters. Four directors.
?It’s a tricky thing to get right, the omnibus film — for every RoGoPaG there’s a Four Rooms — but Vogelfrei is a stunning example of the form. Typically the portmanteau form involves several directors’ take on the same, loose theme, but Vogelfrei takes a different approach: four young Latvian directors each take a stage of the life of the central character, Teodors, through childhood, adolescence, and early and late middle age. The film opens with the dictionary definition of the title, a German word of many if not entirely different meanings — the beginning of the hunting season; outside of the law; free of birds; free as a bird; latitudinarian — and these definitions inform each of the segments in one way or another.We first meet Teodors playing in the woods with his friends, and having what may well be his first brush with the opposite sex. Then he’s an adolescent, an apparently popular member of the ice hockey team but one whose natural reticence and sensitivity hold him back. In the third segment he’s a city PR executive, struggling to deal with his own emotional emptiness and loneliness; and finally he’s a church organist, returned to the countryside, alone but content with his beloved owl.What’s so extraordinary about this film is that it is apparent that all four directors have given what is a highly personalised take on the life of their protagonist, and yet the whole is so remarkably coherent. While the viewer is unaware just how much of Teodors’ personality was predetermined, it is entirely believable we are witnessing the life of the same man and the film – and Teodors’ character – gathers real weight and meaning. Life is a trial, the directors seem to be saying, and only in older age, perhaps, are we able to cast aside the burden of society’s expectation and be happy just being who we really are.
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