I Was Here

The road to perdition is paved with drugs, violence, rough sex and loud music in helmer Rene Vilbre's downbeat Estonian youth pic "I Was Here."

The road to perdition is paved with drugs, violence, rough sex and loud music in helmer Rene Vilbre’s downbeat Estonian youth pic “I Was Here.” Based on a contempo novel whose subtitle, “The First Arrest,” says it all, this cautionary tale from the producer and screenwriter of last year’s much-admired “The Class,” disappoints in comparison. As depicted here, the downfall of pic’s protag — who reps a generation attracted to fast money but not hard work — comes off as neither tragic, redemptive nor particularly interesting. Unlikely to appeal to cinephiles, pic seems limited to a small seg of the domestic market.

Narrated in v.o. by juvenile delinquent Rass (Rasmus Kaljujarv) as he writes a confession from the slammer, pic follows his heedless progression from occasional errand boy for car thieves to full-time drug dealer. It’s unclear whether his rendez-vous with justice will put him on a different path or merely be the first arrest of many. Mostly night-shot low-budgeter has suitably gritty production values; the young thesps are eye-catching but callow. The late Finnish actor Markku Peltola (“The Man Without a Past”) makes a final cameo as Rass’s father.

I Was Here

Estonia-Finland

Production: An Amrion (Estonia)/Helsinki-filmi (Finland) production, with the support of the Estonian Film Foundation, the Estonian Cultural Endowment, the Ministry of Culture of Estonia, the Finnish Film Foundation, the European Union Media Program, Nelonen, Estonian Public Broadcasting. (International sales: Amrion, Tallinn, Estonia.) Produced by Riina Sildos. Co-producer, Aleksi Bardy. Directed by Rene Vilbre. Screenplay, Ilmar Raag, based on the novel "I Was Here. 1. The First Arrest" by Sass Henno.

Crew: Camera (color, DV-to-35mm), Mait Maekivi; editor, Joona Louhivuori; music, Jimi Tenor, Rainer Sarnet; art director, Jaagup Roomet; costume designer, Anu Lensment. Reviewed at Karlovy Vary Film Festival (East of the West), July 9, 2008. Estonian dialogue. Running time: 89 MIN. With Rasmus Kaljujarv, Margus Prangel, Hele Kore, Tambet Tuisk, Marilyn Jurman, Johannes Naan, Lembit Ulfsak, Markku Peltola.

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