Between Covers (Hölma All) (2018)

Between Covers (Hölma All) first published by EyeforFilm

The opening image of writer/director Siima Tamm’s feature debut – a wide shot of a snow-covered icy lake, all white and blank and unforgiving – sets the tone perfectly for the rest of the film. For Between Covers (Hölma all) is to be a minimalist project, unfolding with a chilly sparseness that requires viewers to bring their own warmth. 

Marti (Erki Laur) lives alone in the Estonian woodlands, working outdoors, reading, and heating up by the stove or even in the sauna attached to his isolated home. His only outside contact – and he likes it that way – is the kindly local shopkeeper Kalev (Andres Lepik), with whom he often engages in conversations about books, personal choice and the human condition. 

When a young woman, Irene (Jaanika Arum), turns up on his doorstep ill-dressed for the late winter and carrying a letter for him to read, Marti knows that his own past choices have caught up with him, and that he will need to make another – the best he can out of bad options – to define both who he is and who he has become. Irene is meant only to spend the night, but Marti negotiates for her to stay two days longer – and as the relationship between this pair, at first so tense and prickly, starts to thaw, two men (Rasmus Kaljujärv, Pääru Oja) idle in a car, waiting for something to happen…

The result is a slow-burning existential noir which explores the deep-seated irrationality of man, while suggesting that the best hope for improvement might rest in literature.

© Anton Bitel