STUDIES AND RESEARCH
Prit Pärn’s drawn ’perestroika’
Priit Pärn’s opus presents one of basic oeuvres of modern animation. It includes a great number of short and middle meter animated films, animated commercials, and several television series. Among Pärn’s numerous prizes, one has to mention two Grand Prix won at Animafest in Zagreb (1988 and 1996). Parn was born in 1946 and from late 1960s he worked as professional caricaturist and cartoonist, winning awards at several festivals of caricature. Owing to these successes, he was given a chance to direct an animated film under the supervision of Fedor Hitruk. Basic feature of Pärn’s approach to animation was based on caricature, on the development of action in a picture and expressive use of visual metaphors, so that expression ’grotesque realism’ concisely describes his directorial procedure and artistic style. Pärn is also interesting because his manner of work, style and expression, which include very much outdated animation production and presentation methods, are slowly becoming part of history. Apart from obvious influences of Estonian culture, tradition and history, his films are also his means of fighting and protesting against non-freedom. It is quite a paradox that it was the state with its program of sponsorship of cinema who made it possible for Pärn to make his films. This was particularly true of the period of perestroika in 1980s, when bureaucracy was donating money by default, but there was no longer any ideological control.
Pärn’s first film was called Is Earth Really Round? (1977). It was a satyrical humoresque with a message that life is based on illusion and not reality, because of which it was banned for screening. Next film, Games and tricks (1978) was intended for children. However, a story about a teddy bear performing magical tricks also functioned as a metaphor for the conflict between a prominent individual and the masses. Already in this cartoon, the author’s drawing was formed in the tradition of characteristic ’Eastern European’ trembling line and easy-going shading. At the festival in Varna, he won first prize. Several preparatory exercises for independent living (1981) was the title of the author’s next film whose main quality resided in good quality rhythmic editing and complex animation operations. The following title was Triangle (1982), a story about an unusual love inspired by the Estonian fairy-tale about a gluttonous little man who lived in a furnace. Triangle was the film in which Pärn definitely formed his aesthetics. Figures of his characters, although stylised, were still anatomically correct. Pärn skilfully played with deepest male sexual fantasies, building a physical relationship between a woman and the little man whose whole body functioned as a penis. Triangle was Priit Pärn’s first great success on the international scene, not to mention that it was also very successful in the Soviet Union. Time Out (1984) had a somewhat simpler drawing and a much faster rhythm than his previous film, which actually consisted of a series of animated absurd caricatures. Next, Pärn realized a 30 minutes long animated film Eine murul (1987), internationally known as Breakfast on the Grass.
Film was divided in four parts, four stories about two female and two male characters connected by the place they live in, urban milieu filled with absurd, but recognizable scenes of realistic socialism. Depicting everyday life of four characters, Pärn created a dark and absurd image of the world in which human being was merely an idea sketched in decrees and manifestos. Differing reality from dogmatic phraseology seemed impossible so that all four characters eventually met and found short lasting peace in Manet’s famous canvas Dejeuner sur l’herbe. Value of the film did not reflect in its political message, but in the fact that Eine murul was magical in its structure and performance. In the film Hotel E (1992), author’s first film in independent Estonia, and probably his best work, Pärn shaped a bleak composition about Europe and the world. At the beginning of the film we see two short ’prefilms’ as introduction to the central theme. In the first, under the title The Legend of the Traitor, made in the technique of collage animation, we see members of some ethnic minority in the midst of snow-storm somewhere in the north of Europe. Second mini — film, Redeemer, was realized as a painting with short blends, and consisted of motives of folk play with glasses and wine, which, most probably, came from Estonia. Next we see a hotel room filled with jaded women and men. The drawing was made in clear, cold line dominated by icy nuances of blue and green. In the adjoining room we see bureaucrats at a round table, drawn in style of East European caricature with specks from nervous dashes of drawn raster.
Similar train of thought was followed in the author’s next, metafilmic project 1895 (1995, co directed by Janno Poldma). ’Film is a lie’ wrote in the opening credits. Bitter point of 1895 was that film history ruinously mixed with real history. Night of the Carrots (1998) relied on the same premises as the previous film, with the exception that the object of Pärn’s satyrical analysis were the Internet and the influence of computers on modern man. Karl och Marilyn (2003) is the author’s newest film which continues to follow the melting process of formerly opposing cultures. With the experience and knowledge acquired in the world of bureaucratic socialism, with the gift of one of the greatest living caricaturist and animator, and as a philosopher able to thoroughly analyse our time and the world, Pärn is an author whose method of ’grotesque realism’ can help us see our ’globalized’ reality more clearly.