Screened as part of NZIFF 2008

Vogelfrei 2007

Directed by Anna Viduleja, Gatis Smits, Janis Kalejs

Fresh and engaging takes on the four ages of man from the brightest new talents of the newly emergent Latvian film industry. "Beautiful filmmaking." — The Lumiere Reader

Latvia In Latin and Russian with English subtitles
95 minutes Beta-SP


Janis Kalejs
Gatis Šmits
Janis Putnins
Anna Viduleja


Andrij Parekh
Sam Moon
Gints Berzins


Armands Blumbergs
Liene Balina
Jekabs Dimiters


Igors Suhoverhovs
Karlis Spravniks
Ints Teterovskis
Liubomiras Lauciavicius


Pusan 2007; Rotterdam, Edinburgh 2008


This fresh and engaging portmanteau film from Latvia provides a terrific showcase for four young filmmakers and is much more cohesive than most multi-director works, united by a crisp, coherent visual style and a strong organising idea. The film follows the fortunes of a male protagonist, Teodors, at various ages, with each episode exploring different takes on isolation. The multiple meanings of the film's title, ranging from 'free as a bird' to 'lawless' to 'the beginning of the birdhunting season', are spelt out at the start, and all of the definitions come into play in one form or another as the film progresses.

The first episode, directed by Janis Kalejs, follows a very young Teodors as he engages in 'Lord of the Flies'-style games with other vacationing children, mimicking and assaulting the adult world. The hyper-alert, energetic vision of this episode leaps up a notch when it shifts into a subjective, elliptical representation of Teodors' mild concussion in the second half.

Next, we catch up with Teodors as a misfit adolescent – his age doubles with each episode – fumblingly reaching out to a girl in his drama class.  The style of this episode, by Gatis Smits, is more naturalistic, in a Ken Loach / Dardennes brothers manner.  Janis Putnins' satirical third episode deals with Teodors' adulthood as a PR executive, and the tone shifts to a very dry comedy of embarrassment, with Teodors more oddball and off-putting than ever, and more maladroit with women as well.

The final episode is directed by Anna Viduleja.  It's the wry tale of two city slickers who want to catch a hawk and it caps the film beautifully, utilising subtle visual echoes to refer back to the previous episodes while also bringing other, more universal symbols into play.  This gently unfolding anecdote finds the aged, silent Teodors (with an owl for his companion) much more at peace with himself, and this unexpected resolution to a life's journey casts the earlier episodes in a new light.  Welcomed on home ground as the first full expression of a newly emergent national cinema, this extremely impressive film gives festival audiences the world over four new names to watch. — AL