Screenplay, Vytautas Zalakevicius, based on the novel by Ernst Wichert. Camera (color), Viktoras Radzevicius; editor, Gintautas Smilga; music, Juozas Sirvinskas; production designer, Augis Kepezinskas. Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (Panorama), Feb. 19, 2000. Original Lithuanian title: Elze is giljos. Running time: 139 MIN.
With: Egle Jaselskyte, Andrius Paulavicius, Kostas Smoriginas, Janina Lapinskaite, Eduardas Pauliukonis, Antanas Surna, Kristina Savickyte, Dainius Svobonas.
The ship never quite comes in for period seaside saga “Elze’s Life,” an East Prussian spin on “Romeo and Juliet” from vet helmer Algimantas Puipa. Visually ravishing but overlong, pic could reel in theatrical dates in appropriate territories but seems more likely to be hooked by fests looking for a rare catch from Lithuanian waters.
At the end of the 19th century, poor but defiant fisherman Jurgeitis (Kostas Smoriginas) is imprisoned for what the court interprets as the attempted murder of fishery honcho Greenbaum (Antanas Surna). His daughter, Elze (Egle Jaselskyte), is sent to live with rich German merchant Michael (Eduardas Pauliukonis). She falls in love with his son, Endrik (Andrius Paulavicius), but when Michael dies, their love is imperiled by vengeful widow Grita (Janina Lapinskaite). One of only three Lithuanian pics produced in 1999, “Elze’s Life” was adapted from East Prussian author Ernst Wichert’s novel by respected director Vytautas Zalakevicius, whose death in 1996 was a turning point in the nation’s cinema. Tech credits are atmospheric and bracing.