Estonian helmer Elmo Nuganen’s feature bow “Names in Marble” is a nationalistic rallying cry. A tale of sacrifice centered on a group of students, pic may boast a setting unfamiliar to most auds and some unique history, but overall it’s nothing new. Despite breaking B.O. records in Estonia, where it opened last November, this one won’t be bursting beyond the Baltics.
Film opens in 1918, with students clandestinely raising the Estonian national flag. They’re a mixed group, mostly well off but including nascent Bolsheviks; however, the Red Army thinks otherwise of students’ independence plans. Led by Kasper (Alo Korve), nationalist supporters are quick to sign up, but Ahas (Priit Voigemast) is slower to wake up to the cause until he meets beautiful Marta (Hele Kore) and finds his patriotism kindled. Cliches include an “I’m scared” scene, soldiers charging across a snowy field, and even Ahas rescuing his girl from a fate worse than death. It all has a very chaste, ’40s feel, with fresh-faced boys and girls finding camaraderie and a sense of purpose. Crisp, attractive lensing nicely captures the Nordic light.