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DARKNESS IN TALLINN

Finland / Sweden / Estonia / USA, 1993 (MIFF 1994)

Director: Ilkka Jarvilaturi

The setting is the Estonian capital Tallinn, which is celebrating its new-found independence. A billion dollars in gold bullion, hidden in Paris since the Nazis invaded the tiny Baltic state in 1940, is finally being returned under the watchful eyes of the local media and the nation's proud citizens. The mob has hatched an elaborate plan to extinguish the lights in Tallinn, and under cover of darkness to steal the gold. Central to their plan is Toivo, a part-time smuggler and struggling electrician, whose pregnant wife urges him to accept the mob's generous payment.

In the best tradition of heist films the plot goes awry and as director Illka Järvilaturi certainly knows, that's when the fun begins. A masterfully constructed, taut and suspenseful caper, Darkness In Tallinn succeeds on the most modest of means - grisly 'heavies', a spiralling plot plied with unexpected thrills and treacherous spills, absurd humour and a refreshingly left-of-centre political conscience.

A cocktail production (the film was shot with Finnish and US monies in Estonia by a Finn now based in New York) the film easily assimilates its blend of energies and influences - the cheek and nerve of US indies, the classic genre film, and that brand of allegorical filmmaking perfected by east Europeans to escape political censorship.

Järvilaturi saves the best surprises till the end - more than just another gag, it's a refreshing reminder that inventiveness is often a triumph of means.

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