Those wanting to master Estonian could do worse than pick up a few words and phrases from the best Estonian movies. Estonian movies provide examples of how the language is really spoken, from sentence structure to the use of slang and actual proper pronunciation.
Learn While Being Entertained
We all love to watch movies, and if we are learning a new language while doing it, so much better. In this Estonian blog, we will explore a few of the top Estonian movies that will help make your grasp of the language easy as well as fun.
Set in a small village in rural Abkhazia, the movie focuses on two friends Ivo (Lembit Ulfsak) and Margus (Elmo Nüganen). The pair are the only members of their community who decided not to flee the now Russian-backed separatist region of Soviet Estonia following the outbreak of war.
We find out that Margus cannot leave because he is yet to harvest his tangerine crop and Margus has decided to stay to help make the crates that the tangerines will be packed in. The drama takes a turn after a firefight between Georgian army soldiers and Abkhaz separatists leaves only one man from each side alive. Ivo takes the men to his home, where he attempts to nurse each wounded man back to health.
A deal is made that the men will not try to kill each other under Ivo’s roof, and both men soon learn to respect each other as they recover. Ahmed (Giorgi Nakashidze) is persuaded by Ivo to convince a group of Abkhaz soldiers that Nika (Misha Meskhi) is also Chechen but is unable to speak because of the head wound he has suffered. A nearby group of Abkhaz soldiers has agreed to help Margus harvest his tangerine crop, but shelling during the night destroys the orchard.
Ahmed wants to give Margus some money as compensation, but Margus says he cannot accept money made by a mercenary. Russian troops come to the house and find Margus and Ahmed sitting outside. Wrongly accusing Ahmed of being Georgian, they are about to execute him. However, Nika shoots at them first, and a bloody conflict ensues, during which Margus is killed. Ahmed and Nika take up arms against the Russians, and Nika is killed. After burying Margus and Nika, Ahmed decides to drive home to Chechnya and his family, a country that will also soon be plunged into a vicious war.
Written, produced, and directed by Zaza Urushadze, Tangerines was nominated at the 87th Academy awards in the Best Foreign Language Film category. It was also nominated in the same category at the 72nd Golden Globes.
Set in the mountains of Siberia, Ghost Mountaineer is a schlock-horror thriller purportedly based on real-life events. This Estonian film tells of a group of students who decide to take the Trans-Siberian Railway to the remote region of Buryatia, where they intend to seek out an ornamental mineral known as nephrite. However, as they hike through the mountains, tensions grow within the group.
The situation takes a turn for the worst when the self-appointed leader of the group Olle (Reimo Sagor) disappears under a freak avalanche. Having failed to find him, his rival Eero (Priit Pius) leads the few remaining souls of the expedition to a Buryate village, where they encounter a sadistic police chief who decides to lock the group up on suspicion of murdering their companion. What follows involves angry villagers, who are annoyed at having their precious nephrite plundered, a shocking autopsy, a night stranded in an isolated house, and, of course, a visit from the titular ghost mountaineer.
Director Urmas E. Liiv claims that he based the movie on events that actually took place although he hasn’t been very expansive in interviews.
A Lady In Paris
The feature film focuses on Anne (Laine Mägi), a young woman employed to look after Frida (Jeanne Moreau), a lady approaching old age who made a new life in France long ago. Anne leaves Estonia to take up her new position, but it quickly becomes apparent that her presence is not wanted. Frida has only one interest in life and that is her former lover, Stéphane (Patrick Pineau). Although tensions mount, Stéphane is determined that Anne looks after Frida. Anne has to decide what to do amid the conflict.
This is one of the Estonian movies directed by Ilmar Raag and deftly explores the changing relationship of the two main characters.
Set in the 1950s, Endel Nelis (Märt Avandi) is a young man who has fled Leningrad in order to escape the Russian secret police. He arrives in Haapsalu where he manages to find work as a physical education teacher. Endel creates a sports club for the children where he teaches them fencing, a sport he is passionate about. However, the school’s principal (Hendrik Toompere Sr.) does not approve and starts to dig into Endel’s past. Endel’s Russian friend Aleksei (Kirill Käro) warns him that under no circumstances should he return to Leningrad.
Events take a turn when the Estonian students, to whom he has become a mentor and role model, are invited to travel to Leningrad to take part in a fencing competition. Endel must now make the difficult choice to put his own life at risk or let down the children he has grown to love.
This is one of the Estonian movies in our list based on the real-life events of Endel Nelis, a young Estonian fencer, and is directed by Klaus Härö. The film made the shortlist in the Best Foreign Film category at the 88th Academy Awards and competed in the same category for a Golden Globe.
We are introduced to Homa (Fatemah Motamed-Aria), a nurse who works in a private hospital. The drama begins when a snowstorm and avalanche cut the hospital off from the outside world for ten days. Homa is forced to spend time caring for an elderly Estonian lady (Shirin Yazdanbakhsh), who is also the mother of the hospital’s owner. We find out that the old lady is a deeply unpleasant character, and the film shows Homa descending into insomnia fuelled depression as the two ladies are forced to deal with one another.
Director Morteza Farshbaf contrasts the stunning snowy landscape with the melancholy of the hospital and the relationship between two women who are forced by circumstances beyond their control to spend a lengthy period of time together.
Essential Movie Terms In Estonian
What would be an article about movies in Estonian without a quick and useful cheat sheet with some vocabulary? Use this list to practice your Estonian and keep it close to you if you ever need to come back and freshen up your memory!
Keep The Movie Rolling With Ling
If you enjoy watching foreign movies in their native tongue, our Ling App can help you. Packed with tons of lessons, quizzes, and games, Ling makes learning a new language fun and easy. Why not download the app today from App Store and Google Play?