Fire Lily (Tuliliilia) (2018)

Fire Lily (Tuliliilia) first published by EyeforFilm

The fire lily from which Estonian writer/director Maria Avdjushko’s feature debut derives its title – and which appears at several junctures within the film – is, significantly, a hermaphroditic plant, both male and female, and capable of fertilising itself. This is one key (from a whole bunch) to the story of a woman falling unexpectedly pregnant at a transitional point in her life. 

In her late thirties, infertile and alone, ophthalmologist Pia (Ingrid Isotaam) is still recovering from a bitter divorce, half-heartedly refurnishing her new apartment, and looking for love and companionship, when she suddenly finds her domestic space filled with her vacationing best friend’s young son Peetrike (Rasmus Kallas), with her own much younger sister Kaia, and with kindly bar owner Kaarel (Johann Urb). To this modern family structure there is also another regular visitor, unseen though heard and tangible, at first entering Pia’s bedroom – and her body – at night, and soon making its presence felt elsewhere and during the day too, violently protecting his hostess from any male threat. 

This invisible figure, inhabiting the void left by Pia’s absent father and husband, soon leaves Pia, impossibly, with child – and as Fire Lily offers a compelling confusion of explanatory frames, whether rational, religious or supernatural, for a pregnancy that might be miracle or curse, it also explores a single, independent, middle-aged woman’s place in a world that is often hostile to her. Mixing elements of horror films The Entity (1982) and Rosemary’s Baby (1968), but playing out as a feminist mystery, this is an ambiguous, enigmatic fable, gravid with possibilities for its elusive interpretation.

© Anton Bitel