How do you make a movie look like ten or even thirty million dollars with a budget of about $1,500,000? You’d better ask the makers of Estonian war movie ‘1944’, a movie that has no doubt flown under the radar of most. They have made this Estonian language movie look pretty damn good and covered and area not much spoken of – the tribulations of Estonia in World War 2 as a country that kind of went back and forth between the Allies and Axis powers. This small movie will only cater to a certain minority but even they should proceed with caution.
As you probably know, the USSR invaded Estonia in 1940, the following year Germany invaded the USSR, with Estonia opting to side with the Germans. Eventually the tide turns again and the USSR returns to Estonia. The film is set in 1944, during the Battle of Tannenberg Line (25 July – 10 August 1944) until the Sõrve Peninsula Battle of Tehumardi (October – November 1944) and is shown through the eyes of Estonian soldiers who had to pick sides and thus fight against their fellow countrymen. It explores loyalties and the difficulties of being a small nation being caught between larger powers.
The movie has some surprisingly decent battle scenes, for instance the two assaults by the Red Army at the beginning of the movie on an Estonian Axis trench network is clearly shot and edited, with blood squibs, real tanks and authentic WW2 weaponry, fuelling this is competent acting. As mentioned above, I almost can’t believe that the budget of the movie is so small, perhaps the fact that the Estonian Ministry of Defence was involved is behind it. For instance, the attack by Red Army ground attacks planes on children… I could not tell whether those things were real or CGI.
Caution should be taken though as the movie is very much a drama peppered with battle scenes here and there and the movie is unsurprisingly geared towards a specific audience. I’m thinking that you need to know the history of Estonia – and care about it – to enjoy this movie. Me, I thought it was ‘okay’ simply because I’m a war junkie. But anyway, now you know, this movie is out there.