Monday, 31 August 2015

Disco and Atomic War

Disco and Atomic War is an Estonian documentary - with some amusing later renactments, (so I suppose it is a documentary-drama, but a comic drama, if that).

In the film, Jaak Klimi, who is the director, tells of how his childhood in Tallinn - and that of most of his playmates, and their parents - was greatly enhanced by being able to watch Finnish television. The authorities try to stop them, but ingenuity wins out, so that each time some new jamming method is introduced, the citizens work out a way to get around it. The scenes showing the various subterfuges that are thought up and how they are put into practice are very funny.

Similarly amusing is the plot line that runs through the film about Klimi's relatives from the south of the country, where Finnish television is not accessible. One holiday they come to stay with Klimi's family in Talliin and join them in their weekly viewing of Dallas. After their return to the south, he has to write weekly letters to keep them up to date with developments on the programme. These are read out to ever larger groups of country people, the Dallas addiction spreading like wildfire, even without access to the moving screen

Meanwhile, the Soviet goverment and its proxy in Talliin tries to mitigate the influence of Finnish television, unsuccessfully. In an interview towards the end of the film, the former Soviet puppet leader of the government, who now lives in Moscow and has not set foot in Estonia since his downfall, blames Finnish television more than anything else for the end of Communist rule in the country. The illogic of this argument does not seem to strike him - or any of the other stooges we see, in clips taken from footage filmed down the years, blaming the West for its propaganda, rather than noticing that the state of affairs they have created is the problem, the existence of a better life in the West merely the perceived solution to that problem for many of their citizens.

The film is wonderfully wry and very charming. It made me feel old, seeing footage of events during the Cold War and realising that it all looks a very long time ago. I don't feel anything like nostalgia for those days, but I do wish things had turned out better since everything changed.

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