Thoughts On: The Last Relic - Old Bones


The Last Relic - Old Bones

Quick Thoughts: The Last Relic (Viimne Reliikvia, 1969)

Made by Grigori Kromanov, this is the Estonian film of the series.

The Last Relic is a significant picture in regards to Estonian film history as it is one of the most popular and influential movies ever produced from the nation. In its time this then held the record for the highest box office sales in the whole of the Soviet Union. However, there is a tension in this film between its Soviet and Estonian characteristics. Because the book that this story was adapted from was of historical significance for Estonia (it depicts the peasant uprising during the Levonian War of the late 1500s), it was censored by the Russian Empire and prohibited from publishing in the late 1890s. However, in the 1960s, Estonia was apart of the Soviet Union, and had been for a few decades. Furthermore, following the death of Stalin in the early 50s, there was greater freedom in the Union. We can see this impact upon The Last Relic through its themes and story. As most films from the Soviet Union would have had to during Stalin's reign, this has strong socialist undertones. In such, we see the destruction of religion and the rising of the lower class depicted in this story. There is nonetheless a sense of independence and freedom in this film projected by the defined, heroic protagonist battling through a sexually charged - though, simultaneously, distinctly Estonian - story that dilutes the socialist message. With the end of the film, there is then no true sense of a cohesive socialist realist subtext as this narrative is about a free man and an outlaw winning the heart of a woman and uniting his own rebel forces against the dogmatism of the past and the bones of a fallen leader. We are then left with some suggestion that this film has a facade of communist critique, but that, under the surface, this may also be about rebellion and independence against the current rule. This may be a somewhat anachronistic reading of the film, however, as Estonia would begin campaigning for independence almost two decades after this film's release.

But, to judge this as just an historical epic, The Last Relic is an ok picture with some impressive stunt work and an engaging narrative populated by distinct characters. This has nonetheless aged, which emphasises some of the technical faults and the downfalls in the structure of the script. So, all in all, this is far from a masterpiece, but a watchable film.

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UPDATE: For a look at another Estonian film, click here.

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Sullivan's Travels - Piercing The Shell Of Pretentious Collectivism

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Every Year in Film #29 - Fantasmagorie

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